This was a procedural 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.
If passed, this particular procedural motion -- known as the “previous question" -- effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
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. Jared Polis (D-CO) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “We are here today to extend a lifeline to teachers in classrooms across the country to ensure that students and our future are not mortgaged by a weak economy that has forced states into drastic cutbacks….This legislation saves or creates 310,000 American jobs, specifically for teachers, police officers, firefighters, and nurses. In Colorado, this bill will save the jobs of 2,600 teachers….absent the passage of this bill, class sizes will be larger for students across the state, and we will be mortgaging our future because of the current recession.”
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) criticized the Democratic majority for bringing up a bill that increased federal spending, also noting that the Democratic leadership had interrupted the traditional August recess to schedule a vote on the legislation: “I would like to say…that this special emergency session called unexpectedly just after a week of the district work period to pass another $26.1 billion in spending is, in fact, Washington, D.C. at its absolute worst. Everything that Americans have come to hate about their government, about the way their government works--the waste, the ineptitude, the cynicism, the lack of accountability, the utter disregard for the concerns of taxpayers--is all very vividly on display right here today.”
The House agreed to the previous question motion by a vote of 244-164. 244 Democrats voted “yea.” All 160 Republicans present and 4 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final 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 and layoffs of teachers and government employees.