KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Pelosi Says House Will Return Next Week If Senate Passes Bill With Medicaid Funding, Teacher Pay

The Senate agreed Wednesday morning to proceed with consideration of a $26.1 billion state aid package, which includes $16 billion in Medicaid assistance, by a cloture vote of 61 to 38. The action was followed within hours by an announcement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she is calling the House, which had left town last week, back into session next week if the Senate passes the measure.

Politico: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back from its summer recess next week in hopes of quickly approving a $26.1 billion fiscal aid package for states and local governments now poised to clear the Senate Thursday. The decision follows calls from labor allies and Education Secretary Arne Duncan that swift action is needed to put [to] rest the threat of thousands of teacher layoffs before the school year. And after conferring with her leadership, the ever modern California Democrat used a twitter account to spread the word. The sudden turnaround followed twin, back-to-back 61-38 Senate votes in which Maine Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe joined in support of the aid after Democrats agreed to pay for the costs with major cuts from their own priorities - including food stamps for the poor. Cash-strapped governors are promised $16.1 billion to help meet Medicaid payments next year, and $10 billion would go to state and local school boards to preserve teacher jobs" (Rogers, 8/4).

The New York Times: "The Obama administration, which lobbied aggressively for the aid to states and schools, praised the Senate's action. 'We had a choice,' Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said. 'Either teachers could be in the classroom or they could be on the unemployment lines. I think a lot of people realized it would be better if they were in the classrooms.' The House of Representatives initially approved the money aimed at preventing some 140,000 teacher layoffs by attaching it to an emergency war spending bill for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Senate rejected that bill" (Herszenhorn and Zeleny, 8/4).

The Washington Post: The funding in the bill ""is only about half what Obama had sought for the two programs and is far less generous than desperate governors had hoped for. Anxiety in Congress about the mounting national debt forced Democratic leaders to devise a plan to cover the cost of the package, blunting its impact on the economy. To offset the new spending, the package would cut off in March 2014 an expansion of food stamp benefits enacted last year. It would also eliminate tax breaks for some multinational corporations based in the United States that have operations abroad -- a centerpiece of a House Democratic campaign to promote domestic manufacturing and discourage companies from shipping jobs overseas" (Montgomery, 8/4).

Roll Call: In what is being termed a "significant" win for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, "Senate Democrats beat back a nearly unified GOP opposition, ... winning a key procedural vote Wednesday with the help of Maine Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe." Although this Wednesday morning vote "technically" allows senators 30 hours of debate on the measure, "aides said Reid was hoping to speed up the process and have a vote on final passage Thursday night before Members take off for the five-week break" (Brady, 8/4).   

The Hill's Healthwatch Blog: "The vote lends a pre-recess legislative victory to Democratic leaders, who have struggled for months to pass the measure under threat from the nation's governors that a failure to do so would lead to layoffs and cuts to safety-net programs nationwide" (Lillis, 8/4).

The Associated Press: The bill's spending provisions are "accompanied by tax increases and spending cuts to avoid increasing the budget deficit. The bill eliminates in March 2014 an expanded food stamp benefit enacted last year, and limits the ability of some U.S.-based multinational companies to use foreign tax credits to reduce their U.S. taxes" (Taylor, 8/4).

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