WASHINGTON (CN) – The House voted 247-161 on Tuesday, and sent to President Obama, a bill to provide $26 billion to help prevent teacher layoffs and make up for state budget shortfalls. Two Republicans voted for the measure and three Democrats voted against it.
The House took a one-day break from its August recess, reconvening in Washington to vote on the bill.
The Senate passed the bill with a 61-39 vote on Aug. 5. Two Senate Republicans voted with majority Democrats in favor of passing the measure.
The bill would direct $10 billion to state and local school systems to help pay teachers’ salaries, and would provide $16 billion in federal assistance to states to help offset Medicaid costs and prevent deeper budget cuts.
The bill is estimated to save at least 160,000 jobs for teachers, firefighters, policemen and civil employees.
Republicans have accused Democrats of pushing the bill to please teacher unions and special interest groups before fall elections.
House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio called the measure a “pay-off to union bosses and liberal special interests.” He said it was the result of Democrats’ “addiction to more government ‘stimulus’ spending.”
President Obama shot back in a Rose Garden press conference Tuesday, “I heard the Republican Leader in the House say the other day that this is a special interest bill. And I suppose if America’s children and the safety of our communities are your special interests, then it is a special interest bill.”
Obama argued that the interests covered in the bill were “widely shared” and urged the House to pass it.
During debate, Democrats said the bill was about saving jobs in a recession.
“We ought not to spend one more second debating this bill,” Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., said on the House floor Tuesday. “The American people … are hurting,” Scott said, adding that the bill meant saving 319,000 jobs of teachers, first responders and other civil employees.
Democrats said passing the bill was a no-brainer because it was fully paid for, partly by ending tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas.
Republicans said they opposed the bill because it hurt businesses that made money by sending goods overseas, which harms manufacturing jobs in the United States.
“It is job destruction,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. He said the bill was effectively shutting down “worldwide economic opportunity” by making it “far, far more difficult for American companies to invest in their operations that make money.”
Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said he was “horrified” to hear Democrats accuse Republicans of not siding with teachers.
“We all want to make sure that teachers are in the classroom and nurses are in the emergency room and cops are on the beat,” Dreier said. He said the problem was the bill was being paid for “on the backs of those businesses who are working very hard … to create jobs.”
But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said the bill would be a boost for small businesses. “What do small businesses call them?” Miller asked, referring to teachers and firefighters. “They call them customers.”
Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., praised the bill’s ability to save teachers’ jobs. “The kids aren’t thinking about it,” he said, “but we are.”