WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama signed into law on Tuesday a bill that gives $26 billion to help prevent teacher layoffs and make up for state budget shortfalls.
Obama signed the bill shortly after the House voted for its passage by a vote of 247-161. 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 directs $10 billion to state and local school systems to help pay teachers’ salaries, and extends $16 billion in federal assistance to states to help offset Medicaid costs and prevent deeper budget cuts.
The bill is estimated to preserve 319,000 jobs for teachers, firefighters, policemen and civil employees, including more than 160,000 teachers’ jobs.
On Tuesday, the administration published an interactive map showing the number of teachers’ jobs potentially saved by the bill by state. The bill is estimated to save 16,500 teachers’ jobs in California.
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.”
“It is an American problem,” Obama said, dismissing partisan sentiments over the bill’s passage.
Obama, flanked by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and two teachers, said, “If we do nothing, these educators won’t be returning to the classroom this fall.”
During debate, Democrats argued that the bill was fully paid for by ending tax breaks for companies with operations overseas, ending temporary increases in food stamps, and cutting funding for several federal programs.
Republicans said they opposed the bill because it hurt businesses that made money by sending goods overseas, harming manufacturing jobs in the United States.
“It is job destruction,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. He said the bill shut down “worldwide economic opportunity” by making it “far, far more difficult for American companies to invest in their operations that make money.”
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.”