This was a vote on final passage of legislation providing $26 billion to states to prevent cuts in Medicaid coverage (the health insurance program for the poor) and layoffs of teachers and government employees.
The federal government and state governments fund Medicaid jointly. Unlike the federal government, however, almost all states are required by their constitutions to balance their budgets. During economic downturns, states often cut Medicaid funding in order to prevent a budget deficit – thus leaving many low-income people without health insurance coverage. This bill was intended to give states sufficient funding to prevent such Medicaid cuts. The measure also provided states with funding to prevent layoffs of teachers at public schools, as well as other government employees such as policemen, firefighters, and nurses. Proponents of the bill estimated that it would preserve over 300,000 jobs.
Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI) urged members to support the bill: “Today, we can either sit frozen in the ice of our own indifference, as Franklin Roosevelt once said, or we can take action to help states meet their safety net obligations and to protect our children's education by keeping teachers in the classroom while we continue to claw our way back from the most devastating economic crisis since the Great Depression…. Our Nation's kids are getting ready to go back to school. They need this help now, inadequate though it is. I urge all Members to vote ``yes'' to give it to them. It's the least we should do.”
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) also urged support for the measure: “This will provide critical relief for the States and local governments. This is a vote for jobs, for education, for health care…This will help the states avoid the massive cuts in Medicaid eligibility payments and payments to [medical] providers.”
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) argued the bill amounted to a bailout of state governments: “States across America have as their number one responsibility the education of our young. If the States cannot allocate their own spending in order to carry out that top responsibility, we will never solve the problem with a bailout from Uncle Sam. A multibillion-dollar bailout today will set the stage for nationalized education tomorrow. That will surely push our economy over the cliff of bankruptcy.”
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) argued the bill would produce no economic benefit, and that school districts did not need the funding provided by the bill: “…This bill ignores a simple truth: government cannot inject a single dollar into the economy that is not first taken out of the same economy….Nor is this necessary to save teaching jobs. A school board faced with the choice between a couple of good teachers and an overpaid bureaucrat is probably going to keep the teachers and fire the bureaucrat. But this bill says it doesn't have to make that choice.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 247-161. 245 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted “yea.” 158 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation providing $26 billion to states to prevent cuts in Medicaid coverage and layoffs of teachers and government employees. Since the Senate had already passed the bill, the House’s action cleared the measure for the president’s signature.