This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to 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. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) urged support for the resolution and the underlying legislation: “…The vote we will take today is a vote for preserving jobs in America and a vote against sending them overseas. It will be a vote for keeping jobs in our country by saving the jobs of over 140,000 teachers, 700 them in my home State of Maine. Allowing for further cuts in teachers' jobs would be devastating, not only to our children but also to our local economies in Maine and across the country. The loss of 700 jobs in my State means 700 fewer paychecks being spent at a local grocery or hardware store on the goods and services that support our local economy.”
Rep. John Kline (R-MN) derided the legislation as a “bailout” for states and argued it would merely postpone difficult budgetary decisions: “At best, inflating state education spending for another year will kick the can down the road, merely postponing the tough decisions and allowing States to overextend themselves for another year. At worst, another bailout will make states more dependent on the federal government and more susceptible to Washington's political whims.”
The House agreed to the resolution by a vote of 229-173. 229 Democrats voted “yea.” All 157 Republicans present and 16 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation providing $26 billion to states to prevent cuts in Medicaid coverage and layoffs of teachers and government employees.