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Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill, saying it cost too much.
Nonetheless, he said he was “proud” to have helped secure funding in the law for Everglades restoration.
Other lawmakers have also promoted the fruits of legislation they criticized and voted against.
UPDATED Feb. 3: The story was updated to add comment from Rep. Pressley's office.
After the Biden administration announced that the new bipartisan infrastructure law would provide $1.1 billion to protect and restore the Everglades in South Florida, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., visited the region to celebrate the investment.
"It was good to be with the Army Corps and our strong local leaders today to see the great progress being made at the Herbert Hoover Dike," he said after visiting the dike on Jan. 25. "I was the first governor to dedicate state funding to make the critical repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee and am proud that Senator Rubio and I were able to help secure an unprecedented $1 billion for Everglades restoration, the largest single amount ever allocated by the federal government."
It’s a political tradition for lawmakers to boast about their votes in Congress that help bring money home to their constituents.
But Scott didn’t vote for the law that’s funding the Everglades project. Neither did Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida colleague he shared the credit with.
That makes Scott part of another growing political tradition: lawmakers claiming credit for things made possible by legislation they opposed. It’s how some lawmakers navigate the awkward situation when they’ve voted against something that the public broadly supports, especially bills that funnel money to localities and create jobs and economic opportunity.
A prime example: In March 2021, the House voted on the final version of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, with its COVID-19 pandemic relief for individuals, businesses and local governments. Not a single Republican supported it. But just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., predicted, several Republican lawmakers later promoted various programs and provisions of the legislation.
More than a decade earlier, Republican lawmakers unanimously opposed President Barack Obama’s roughly $800 billion legislation to revive the economy after the 2008-09 financial crisis and recession. That didn’t stop many of them from touting the projects it helped fund.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., for example, was on hand when a stimulus grant of more than $2 million was presented to help build a fire station in his state. "Just because I voted against the stimulus doesn’t mean I shouldn’t recognize the merit achievement of an entity," he later told Politico.
The infrastructure bill enacted in November was one of the few major policy initiatives undertaken by the Biden administration that didn’t split Congress sharply along party lines. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has kept his GOP caucus united in opposition to almost the entire Democratic agenda, voted for the bill.
Republican support was critical to its passage. When it passed the Senate in August 2021, the bill had the support of all 48 Democrats, both independents and 19 Republicans, more than enough to remove the threat of a filibuster. In the House, the bill had the support of 215 Democrats and 13 Republicans; those 13 votes more than offset the six Democrats who voted against.
Just before the Senate vote, Scott said on Fox News that he supported infrastructure, but not the level of spending proposed in the bill.
"We were promised all along that this thing would be fully paid for; we would not run any deficits," he said. "And the Congressional Budget Office came out and said, ‘No.’"
The CBO estimated that the infrastructure bill would add about $256 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years.
"I’m all for roads, bridges, airports and seaports," Scott said. "Let’s do that. … And let’s do it in a fiscally responsible manner. Let’s don’t go borrow more money."
When the Senate took up the bill, Scott and Rubio voted against it. If the vote had gone their way, the money for Everglades restoration would likely have died with the bill.
Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comment about how he helped secure the project.
In some instances, legislators pointed to their efforts to shape the legislation they ended up opposing.
Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa tweeted that she helped secure more than $800 million in infrastructure spending on Iowa’s locks and dams, even though she voted against the bill. She argued that she did help secure the funding because she later sent a letter (along with other lawmakers) to the Army Corps of Engineers, requesting that projects in the upper Mississippi River area be prioritized.
Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana announced millions of dollars in infrastructure funding for waterway projects in South Louisiana — and also issued a statement addressing his vote against the bill: "While I opposed the infrastructure bill in its totality based on unwavering principle, there are certain elements within the bill that my office fully supports."
Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, one of the six Democrats who opposed the infrastructure bill, has also praised elements of the law in the months since.
In December 2021, when it was announced that Massachusetts airports would receive $48 million in federal grants because of the law, Pressley called the funding "welcome news" that would "create jobs and make our airport infrastructure more resilient."
"It’s imperative that this money get disbursed as soon as possible and that we continue working to pass the Build Back Better Act to make additional and sorely needed investments in our workers, families and communities," she added.
Pressley also later praised funding from the law for bridge projects. "We must get these federal dollars out the door as quickly as possible," she said.
A spokesperson said Pressley had long supported infrastructure investments but voted no because the infrastructure bill and Build Back Better Act were not moving forward together, as had been originally planned.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration welcomes the support for the fruits of the bill, even if it comes after the fact.
"Hopefully, they’ll take the right vote to support their communities and job creation in the future," she said Jan. 25 in response to a reporter’s question about the trend. "Maybe it will make them think twice."
CORRECTION: We updated the story to correct the spelling of Marco Rubio's name.
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