Republican Congressman Gary Palmer of Alabama gave a wonderful speech in Birmingham recently, bragging about the new funding that would be coming to build a beltway around the city. “Funding the Northern Beltline has consistently been one of my top priorities,” Palmer proclaimed. He went on to say that, “Completing the Northern Beltline will benefit the entire region and enhance economic development and employment opportunities.”
Indeed, the project, according to state officials, will bring about $2 billion into the Birmingham economy over 10 years and will create an estimated 14,000 jobs. The problem, however, is that Palmer, along with most Republicans, voted against funding for the Northern Beltline and the rest of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill. Before he was bragging about the new funding, he called it, “The Democrats’ recklessly expensive infrastructure bill.” He even supported the idea that House Republicans who voted for his new highway and the rest of the bill should be punished. Now, however, the funding “has consistently been one of my top priorities.” There’s a politician for you.
On the other end of the political divide, Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York voted against the infrastructure bill even though he said afterward that he “wanted to vote for the bill.” Bowman said that he wanted to vote for the bill and a second Build Back Better Act if they were brought to the floor for a vote at the same time. But since the infrastructure bill was voted on first — a bill he now says he supported — he voted against it. This makes no sense to me and, from what I’m reading, makes no sense to Bowman’s constituents, either. Sorry, Congressman Bowman, you can’t have it both ways. If you supported the bill, you should have voted for it. You didn’t.
Then we have Republican Congressman Rob Wittman of Virginia who posted an ad stating that “Congressman Rob Wittman is Bringing Broadband to the Northern Neck.” The ad goes on to say that Wittman, “has helped bring broadband to thousands of homes and businesses. And he will not stop until every Virginian is given an equal opportunity to connect to the future.”
I wonder how many Virginians know that Wittman voted against broadband spending for Virginia, and all the other infrastructure funding for Virginia included in Biden’s infrastructure bill?
The hypocrisy of the month award, however, goes to Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy who criticized Biden for not doing enough to slow down the spread of COVID-19. As stated by New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman, McCarthy’s “Republican Party [has] spent months flouting mask ordinances and blocking the president’s vaccine mandates, and the party’s base has undermined vaccination drives while rallying around those who refuse the vaccine.” In other words, Republicans seem to be doing all they can to make sure COVID-19 has enough unvaccinated victims to continue to spread. That way, they can blame Biden for the continued spread, even if most of the COVID-19 victims are their own Republican constituents.
Indeed, multiple studies have found that 90 percent of Democrats have been vaccinated, compared with about 60 percent of Republicans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that unvaccinated people are 5.8 times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than vaccinated people, and that unvaccinated people are 14 times as likely to die after infection as vaccinated people.
The Republican misinformation campaign on vaccines is playing out in the data from Johns Hopkins University where Charles Gaba looked at infection rates in Republican vs. Democratic majority counties. He found that Republican counties have 2.78 times as many new cases of infection as Democratic counties.
Nevertheless, Republican governors have repeatedly banned all local vaccine mandates, forgetting their conservative principle of “local control.” Even at the federal level, several Republican members of Congress have introduced legislation to stop vaccine mandates for federal employees, military personnel, and others. All 50 Republican senators voted in favor of a bill by Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas to block Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 employees or more.
So, yes, Congressman McCarthy, COVID-19 continues to spread in America — especially in Republican counties — because you and other Republicans refuse to do what needs to be done to stop the spread and protect your fellow Americans. If you want to blame someone for that, you should look in the mirror.
Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears on Wednesdays. Email him at email@example.com.