Bailout or Lifeline?: Senate to Vote on Aid to State Governments

Aug 4, 2010 7:38am

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports: In a bid to avert tens of thousands of layoffs for teachers and first responders at the state level, Senate Democrats today will attempt to throw cash-strapped state governments a lifeline. Their plan is to pass a sweeping state fiscal aid package only days before lawmakers leave for their summer recess. The $26 billion bill will come up for a procedural vote this morning. It includes $10 billion in funding to save teachers’ jobs and $16 billion to help states meet their Medicaid payments. Democrats have said the aid would help avert tens of thousands of layoffs for teachers and first responders. And in response to ongoing Republican concerns about the nation’s soaring deficits, Democrats have noted that the cost of the bill is fully offset. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has urged her colleagues to come to the aid of states suffering from budget shortfalls, warning that around 150,000 jobs are at stake. “This legislation will save and create jobs while helping California and other states protect critical services – such as health care for our families, public safety programs, and a quality education for our children,” Boxer said on a conference call Tuesday.   But Republicans have countered that the bill is a “sequel” to the original stimulus, denouncing it as “another bailout.” “Basically what we’re seeing here this week is the final act in Washington’s guide for responding to a recession,” the top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “The trillion-dollar stimulus bill was supposed to be timely, targeted and temporary,” he said. “Yet here we are – a year and a half later – and they’re already coming back for more.” A vote on the bill was originally set for Monday but postponed by Democrats when the Congressional Budget Office said it would add $5 billion to the debt, but the Democrats said they have fixed that problem and the $26 billion measure is once again budget-friendly. Even if the bill gets past the procedural hurdle on Wednesday morning and obtains final Senate passage before lawmakers leave for recess on Friday, it will still have to get passed by the House – and the lower chamber has already left for their six-week summer break. UPDATE: With the help of moderate Maine Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Senate Democrats this morning overcame a GOP filibuster of the $26 billion state fiscal aid package. The 61-38 vote was called by Sen. Roland Burris at 11:04 a.m. The bill will now get final passage in the Senate shortly, but it must still be passed by the House, where lawmakers have already left for summer break.

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