Aid bill to bring House back from recess

Aug 4th, 2010 | By politicsnews | Category: Politics

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back from its summer recess next week in hopes of quickly approving a $26.1 billion fiscal aid package for states and local governments now poised to clear the Senate Thursday. 

The decision follows calls from labor allies and Education Secretary Arne Duncan that swift action is needed to put the rest the threat of thousands of teacher layoffs before the school year. And after conferring with her leadership, the ever modern California Democrat used a twitter account to spread the word.

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The sudden turnaround followed twin, back-to-back 61-38 Senate votes in which Maine Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe joined in support of the aid after Democrats agreed to pay for the costs with major cuts from their own priorities — including food stamps for the poor.

Cash-strapped governors are promised $16.1 billion to help meet Medicaid payments next year, and $10 billion would go to state and local school boards to preserve teacher jobs.

“It is a great vote for American children, It showed a lot of courage,” Duncan told POLITICO. “There were a lot of people of who given this up for dead. It shows you have to keep fighting and yes, I hope the House returns to get it done.”

Indeed, Duncan has been a sometimes lonely voice in support of the teacher aid within the administration and an earlier House effort — including the $10 billion in a recent war funding bill — failed amid bitter recriminations between Democrats and President Barack Obama’s top staff.

The approach now is cleaner, built on deeper spending cuts, and by pairing school aid with Medicaid assistance Democrats found a formula that impacted Maine — and its Republican senators.

Collins, courted by the White House and influential in shaping the Medicaid funding, was pivotal to the Democratic win and agreed later that once the package was fully financed, it made it harder to object. After weeks of feuding with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Snowe’s support had been less certain, but the two women spoke Wednesday and ultimately voted in a one-two punch on the floor.

A big part of the victory was built on Reid himself and his willingness to embrace new spending cuts to hold his party together and take away the “debt and deficit” arguments from the Republican leadership.

Wednesday’s votes illustrated this strategy as Reid first won on a cloture motion to limit debate, and then came back minutes later with an identical margin, waiving a budget challenge raised by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.)

New Congressional Budget Office estimates released Tuesday night show the revised bill would more than pay for itself, even reducing deficits by $1.37 billion over the next decade.

The depth of the reductions and some of the targets — impacting Pelosi directly — will be a big swallow for the House. But having broken through the Republican line in the Senate, Democrats see the chance for a badly needed victory on jobs before the election.

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