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How vulnerable GOP lawmakers are taking credit for an infrastructure law they opposed

Billions of dollars in infrastructure funding are flowing into cities and towns nationwide, nearly three years after Congress passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill approving the cash.

And some vulnerable House Republicans are tacitly taking credit for the local funds, despite opposing that bill.

Those moves will test how much voters care about federal dollars’ ability to create local jobs and investments and how much credit they’re willing to give lawmakers who are playing both sides of the issue.

Only 13 House GOP lawmakers voted for the 2021 law to fund roads, rails and bridges, a deal shaped in large part by Senate negotiators whom conservatives mistrust. Some of those 13 left Congress after facing threats from the right and vociferous criticism from former President Donald Trump, who said they should be “ashamed of themselves.” The vast majority of Republicans opposed the bill due to the huge price tag, and many simply didn’t want to give President Joe Biden a win.

But almost three years later, the slow-moving machinery of the federal purse is kicking into gear. Highway projects in Iowa have already opened, more than a billion dollars have been pledged for a power plant upgrade in California and millions have been slated for a public transit project in South Carolina. There’s still a ways to go on most projects, but announcements and preparations have started across the country.

Those battleground Republicans who opposed the law are careful not to tout their personal involvement in it on Capitol Hill — instead, they’re showing up at opening ceremonies and praising the actions of local leaders.

“Since House Republicans have no record of accomplishments, they are trying to falsely take credit for ones that aren’t theirs,” said Viet Shelton, a spokesperson for House Democrats’ campaign arm. “This is exactly the sort of hypocritical behavior that the public hates, and the DCCC will be sure to remind voters of Republicans’ do-nothing agenda between now and November.”

Two years ago, at-risk Democrats feared voters wouldn’t care about one of their signature legislative accomplishments, since most projects funded by the bill were still years from breaking ground. Now that more efforts have solidified, Biden’s party is enraged to see Republicans trying to reap the benefits — and GOP members are hoping voters might credit them without delving too deeply into their voting records.

Here’s a breakdown on the infrastructure funds flowing into districts of some of the most vulnerable GOP members who opposed the bill:

Marianette Miller-Meeks: Iowa DISTRICT 1

Nearly $470 million in investments have been promised to Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks’ (R-Iowa) district from the bipartisan infrastructure law, which she voted against. Miller-Meeks is also one of the most vulnerable House Republicans, winning her 2022 race by only six votes.

She has touted that money, from attending a ribbon cutting for a key highway interchange to touting modernization of locks and dams on the Mississippi River in her district, which she called “critically important” to Iowa’s economy — thanking the Army Corps of Engineers for their work.

“We all agree that the country is in a dire need of a clean transportation bill that addresses failing infrastructure. The bill would have had large bipartisan support had Republicans been allowed to be engaged in the process and if it was not vastly overloaded with pet projects,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement to POLITICO.

“Although I was unable to support the massive partisan legislation as a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars, I do support Community Funding Projects, which goes through regular Appropriations Committee order with bipartisan input,” Miller-Meeks added. “I will always fight to ethically bring federal dollars back to my district.”

Nancy Mace: South Carolina District 1

Rep. Nancy Mace’s (R-S.C.) district will receive $34 million from the infrastructure law, which she called a “socialist wish list” and a “fiasco.”

But she celebrated the announcement of a nearly $26 million federal grant for a public transit project in her district in 2023, which was made possible by the infrastructure measure.

David Valadao: California District 22

In addition to money slated specifically for Rep. David Valadao’s (R-Calif.) district, the Biden administration also allocated $1.1 billion to California’s last remaining nuclear power plant as part of the infrastructure law’s $6 billion fund for nuclear energy.

The Diablo Canyon plant, which supplies a significant amount of power statewide, is not in Valadao’s district, but the move to prevent its closure won his praise. In a social media post, he called it an “all-of-the-above approach to energy production and use, including nuclear,” that he touted as “lowering costs, creating jobs, and strengthening our national security.”

Michelle Steel: California District 45

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) celebrated an $8.3 million funding allocation for Newport Harbor dredging as “long overdue and will improve the safety of our community while protecting our homes and businesses.” She even name checked the infrastructure bill, which she voted against, in her press release.

She had advocated for the project as a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors before her time in Congress. Redistricting shifted the coastal project into a different district that Steel currently represents.

Jessie Blaeser contributed to this report.

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