$26 billion state aid bill brings House back from its vacation

WASHINGTON -- The House returned to work from its summer recess for a day last week to finalize a $26 billion aid bill for states to avert public employee layoffs and avoid shortfalls in health care for the poor.

Lawmakers voted 247-161 for the legislation, which was signed into law shortly afterwards by President Barack Obama.

Democrats said the bill, part of the party's response to the lingering recession, would help cash-strapped states that are contemplating layoffs to teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers.

The measure allocated $10 billion for school assistance, along with $16 billion to fulfill a commitment that the federal government pay a larger share for now of funding for Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for low-income individuals and families.

Republicans said the bill was emblematic of Democrats throwing money at a problem, and was an expensive stopgap that will merely postpone hard decisions for a year. They said it was a payoff for public employee unions that traditionally lean to the Democrats.

The House already was on summer recess when the Senate, in a surprise move, was able to pass the legislation a week earlier. House leaders called lawmakers back for a one-day session to finalize the bill.

Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, both D-Nev., voted for the bill. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against it.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.