Updated 6:36pm EST
Senate Democrats overcame a Republican filibuster Wednesday to move legislation that would provide states with funding for Medicaid and education. The $26 billion package passed by Senate Democrats and two Republicans may require the House of Representatives to return to Washington from their summer recess to vote on the package. The funding provides $16.1 billion for Medicaid and $10 billion nationwide for local school districts to prevent imminent teacher layoffs.
“I will be calling the House back into session early next week to save teachers’ jobs and help seniors & children #FMAP,” Speaker Pelosi tweeted this afternoon in what appeared to be her first news breaking use of Twitter.
The House rarely reconvenes during an August recess. According to the House historian’s office, House members returned to Washington in August 2005 to approve emergency funds for the response to Hurricane Katrina and also in 1991 and 1980 to approve various measures. The August recess was formalized in 1970, but the House adjourned to escape the hot and humid Washington summers at different intervals starting in 1790 during the second session of the first Congress. During World War II, according to the historian’s office, the House was in session almost constantly.
The Senate voted 61-38 with Maine Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voting with the Democrats. Following the vote, Snowe said that she supported the bill with the understanding that states are going to have to start making some tough decisions in improving their programs.
“It’s important to be able to provide this support to the states at a critical time, given the difficult economic circumstances most states and the federal government face,” Snowe said. “Many hospitals and nursing homes are under tremendous strains. But this should be the final down payment,” she added.
Fiscal conservatives oppose the legislation because they say it will add to the deficit, dictate how the states spend the money and pander to Democratic special interests.
“Here’s a whole bunch of money that’s coming to the states,” said Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire during a speech on the Senate floor. “What’s it really coming for? Who’s paying for it? The essence of what this bill is about amounts to a pay-off for the education unions. Education unions are the single biggest interests group at the Democratic National Convention,” he said.
And from a spokesman for House Republican Leader John Boehner: “The American people don’t want more ‘stimulus’ spending – particularly spending for labor unions attached to a job-killing tax increase. Democrats would be better off listening to their constituents, who are asking, ‘where are the jobs,’ rather than returning to Washington, DC to vote for more tax hikes and special interest bailouts.”
Both parties, in what appears to be full campaign mode, will use this issue in the upcoming elections in November. Democrats will use it to paint themselves as the party of working Americans; Republicans as deficit hawks trying to slow the momentum of tax and spend Democrats.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this incorrectly attributed a quote about the Medicaid and jobs bill to Sen. Susan Collins. The quote was from Sen. Olympia Snowe. This version has been corrected.