This was a vote on final passage of legislation extending unemployment compensation and health insurance for laid off workers and blocking a 21% cut in Medicare payments to physicians. The Senate had already passed the bill. House passage thus cleared it for the president's signature.
The bill extended (through May 2010) unemployment insurance for workers whose benefits had expired, as well as a program providing government subsidized health insurance for workers who had lost their jobs through no fault of their own. (Workers who were fired due to poor job performance, for example, were not eligible for this health program.) The bill also extended current Medicare payment rates for physicians, blocking a scheduled 21% cut in those payments.
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) urged support for the bill, arguing laid-off workers urgently needed assistance: "We now have 6 1/2 million unemployed workers who have been looking for a new job for over 6 months. That's twice the numbered of long-term unemployed compared to any other time on record before this recession....we should now rise together and pass this bill. The unemployed people of this country are waiting. Those looking for work when there are no jobs available are waiting for action by this House."
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) also urged members to vote for the legislation: "We pass these needed and humane extensions tonight to ease the pain being felt by our fellow citizens around the country. I sincerely hope this is the last time we are forced to cut off this social lifeline because of the dilatory tactics of Senate Republicans. Food, shelter, and health care are too important to be subjected to petty political battles."
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) argued the bill was fiscally irresponsible: "…I support American workers and families, and that is why I must oppose the legislation before us that would heap another $18 billion onto the dangerous deficits this Congress has already amassed and that American workers will ultimately be made to pay for in the coming years….we need to send this bill back to the drawing board and return with legislation that is paid for that will not create more debt, that will help create more jobs instead of economic uncertainty and, ultimately, more job losses."
Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS) argued the bill would fail to lower the unemployment rate: "…This bill does little to address our country's persistent high unemployment rate. Rather than continuing to spend money we do not have, Congress needs to pursue a strategy of job creation. This legislation is yet another unfortunate example of `business as usual' in our nation's capital; same old story from a Congress that needs to learn its lessons from the American people…"
The House passed the bill by a vote of 289-112. 240 Democrats and 49 Republicans voted "yea." 111 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted "nay." As a result, the House passed legislation (thus enabling President Obama to sign it into law) extending through May 2010 unemployment compensation and health insurance for laid-off workers, and blocking a 21% cut in Medicare payment rates for physicians.