House Democrats today passed a bill doling out $26.1 billion to states to help them pay for teachers and emergency workers and to cover growing Medicaid costs. President Obama Tuesday morning hailed Congress for returning to Washington unexpectedly one week into the summer recess. Thanks to two Republican votes from Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both from Maine, the measure passed the Senate 61-39 last week.
The House passed the measure 247-161. Democrats and the White House estimate the new spending could save up to 300,000 teachers’ jobs across the country. Supporters see it as building on the stimulus program from 2009. But like anything in an election year, the vote set off political nastiness.
It’s a ready-made campaign commercial as Democrats plan to hail their own votes as heroic when states are facing massive budget crises. And — you guessed it — Republicans will say it’s another big-spending government plan.
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) mocked the bill as “more ‘stimulus’ spending,” and offered a preview for how Republicans will frame the debate on the trail by saying the taxes that pay for the measure are a “new job-killing tax on U.S. job creators.” It was actually paid for with cuts to programs such as food stamps.
As we told you yesterday, Rep. Michele Bachmann held a Tea Party Tele-Town Hall timed to coincide with Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling the House back into session for the vote.
“After only a few days away from D.C., Democrats in Congress are determined to not let even a week go by without spending additional billions of dollars for even more big government programs,” Bachmann said in advertising the event.
During the tele-townhall, Bachmann called the legislation a $26 billion giveaway to get “boots on the ground” for the upcoming elections.
But the Democrats have seized on comments from both Boehnersuggesting Democrats are catering to special interests. The DNC’s Organizing for America put out Web videos and sent emails to the millions on its mailing list from “Wendy C., a school teacher from Philadelphia.”
Democrats in Congress are trying to do the right thing, proposing emergency assistance for states to preserve more than 100,000 jobs like mine. They’re racing back to the Capitol for an emergency session this week to pass this bill and save these jobs.
But Republicans are standing in the way. Minority Leader John Boehner is calling the bill a “payoff” to “special interests” and attacking every Democrat who is fighting for us.
She also stars in this Web video:
As Time’s Jay Newton-Small points out, Obama requested $50 billion, so the administration is only getting about half of what it wanted. Speaking of wedge issues, Time reported that Democrats might try and pass another measure aimed at border security:
The House may this week take up the $600 million measure, which would add 1,500 new Border Patrol and immigration agents and increasing funding for unmanned aerial border patrols. The White House is pushing for a House vote on the issue - a sign they see it as a winner at the polls in November.
That measure passed by a voice vote. It is paid for by an increase in fees for companies that utilize foreign workers: companies with a significant proportion of temporary workers on H-1B visas will have to pay $2,320 for such workers, and $2,570 in fees when they transfer in employees from abroad on L-1 visas. The fees are currently $320.