Members of the House of Representatives returned to steamy Washington in a rare August callback and quickly passed a $26 billion jobs bill with unmistakable implications for the November congressional elections.
President Barack Obama signed the bill into law just hours after the House passed it in a special oneday session during what would normally have been the lawmakers’ summer break.
Both the majority Democrats and the Republicans expect to score political points from the vote. Obama’s Democrats contend the new law will save jobs and boost the ailing economy. Republicans say their opposition to the bill was designed to stop profligate spending by the Democratic government at a time when the U.S. budget deficit is at an all-time high and is climbing.
The $26 billion bill would protect 300,000 teachers, police and others from election year layoffs. Obama and Democrats said quick action was necessary before children return to classrooms minus teachers laid off because of budgetary crises in states that have been hit hard by the recession.
House Democratic leaders, intent on showing disenchanted voters their commitment to economic recovery, insisted on the one-day session to pass the highly political legislation.
Lawmakers rushing back from town hall meetings and vacations also addressed another issue that will be on voters’ minds this November, lax security on the U.S. borders, especially the southern border with Mexico. They approved a $600 million bill to reinforce surveillance along that border.
The leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, convened the recess session because the Senate passed both the $26 billion jobs bill and the border security bill last Thursday, after the House had left for its sixweek summer break.
The jobs legislation provides $10 billion to school districts to rehire laid-off teachers or ensure that more teachers will not be let go before the new school year begins. The money could keep more than 160,000 teachers, including 16,000 in California and 14,000 in Texas, on the job, advocates say.