Aug 10, 2010 6:05 PM by Letitia Walker
WASHINGTON (AP) - Summoned back from summer break, the House on
Tuesday pushed through an emergency $26 billion jobs bill that
Democrats said would save 300,000 teachers, police and others from
election-year layoffs. President Barack Obama immediately signed it
Lawmakers streamed back to Washington for a one-day session as
Democrats declared a need to act before children return to
classrooms minus teachers laid off because of budgetary crises in
states that have been hard-hit by the recession.
Republicans saw it differently, calling the bill a giveaway to
teachers' unions and an example of wasteful Washington spending
that voters will punish the Democrats for in this fall's elections.
The legislation was approved mainly along party lines by a vote of
The aid for the states is to be paid for mostly by closing a tax
loophole used by multinational corporations and by reducing food
stamp benefits for the poor.
Obama, joined by teachers at a Rose Garden ceremony earlier in
the day, said, "We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips
are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our
The Senate narrowly passed the measure last Thursday, after the
House had begun its August break.
The legislation provides $10 billion to school districts to
rehire laid-off teachers or to ensure that more teachers won't be
let go before the new school year begins. The Education Department
estimates that could save 160,000 jobs.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said his department would
streamline the application process to get the money to local school
districts quickly. He said three-fourths of the nation's districts
have said they would be opening the school year with fewer teachers
and "we wanted to avert a crisis for this year."
An additional $16 billion would extend for six months increased
Medicaid payments to the states. That would free money for states
to meet other budget priorities, including keeping more than
150,000 police officers and other public workers on the payroll.
Some three-fifths of states have already factored in the federal
money in drawing up their budgets for the current fiscal year. The
National Governors Association, in a letter to congressional
leaders, said the states' estimated budget shortfall for the
2010-12 period is $116 billion, and the extended Medicaid payments
are "the best way to help states bridge the gap between their
worst fiscal year and the beginning of recovery."
Not all governors were on board. Mississippi Republican Haley
Barbour said his state would have to rewrite its budget and would
have to spend $50 million to $100 million to get its additional $98
million in education grants.
The $26 billion package is small compared to previous efforts to
right the flailing economy through federal spending. But with the
election approaching, the political stakes were high.
"Teachers, nurses and cops should not be used as pawns in a
cynical political game" resulting from "the Democratic majority's
failure to govern responsibly," said Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif.
"Where do the bailouts end?" asked Republican leader John
Boehner of Ohio. "Are we going to bail out states next year and
the year after that, too? At some point we've got to say, 'Enough
But Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee said his state of Washington
would get funds to keep 3,000 teachers. Republicans, he said,
"think those billions of dollars for those corporate loopholes is
simply more important than almost 3,000 teachers and classrooms in
the state of Washington."
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said Republicans ignore the fact
that the law would not add to the federal deficit. "They want to
do everything in their power to make certain that President Obama
can't get this country going again. I think in November they are
going to find it was a dumb policy."
The means of paying for the bill, a result of difficult
negotiations in the Senate, were contentious.
Republicans objected to raising some $10 billion by raising
taxes on some U.S.-based multinational companies. Advocates for the
poor protested a provision to accelerate the phasing out of an
increase in food stamp payments implemented in last year's economic
recovery bill. Under the measure, payments would return to
pre-stimulus rates in 2014, saving almost $12 billion.
James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center,
said that would be cutting benefits for some 40 million people now
receiving food stamps. "Those families will be hungrier and less
able to buy healthy diets," he said.
Weill's group estimated that a family of four that may now
receive about $464 a month in food stamps stood to lose about $59.
Democrats gave assurances that they would look for other ways to
pay for the law before the payment cuts go into effect in four
"The cutbacks in food stamps in the bill are plain wrong,"
said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
President Gerald McEntee rejected GOP arguments that the Democrats'
primary purpose with the legislation was to reward their friends in
organized labor. "We're in tough shape out there with these
incredible holes in these state budgets. To the American people
it's tremendously important and will give a little lift to the
economy," he said of the legislation.
The House on Tuesday also passed a $600 million measure to boost
security on the U.S.-Mexican border by hiring more enforcement
officers and making greater use of unmanned surveillance drones.
That bill still has to go back to the Senate.
The jobs bill is H.R. 1586.
The border security bill is S. 3721.