The Senate today set the stage to finally provide much needed aid to states to avoid teacher and other public employee layoffs. The bill had been blocked by near unanimous Republican opposition. Only two Republicans voted in favor of the measure to end debate after weeks of stalling: Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine. The motion passed 61 to 38.
On almost every other measure (a rare exception being a bill to reduce crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparities last week), the GOP has repeatedly said no, most recently on a bill to aid small businesses. The Obama White House is furious. The president addressed the issue directly in his weekly message to the American people. In it, he "called on Republican leaders in the Senate to stop blocking a vote on a bill helping small businesses," said a White House press release. That bill, incredibly, has the support of the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Yet Republicans refuse to budge.
According to USA Today, "The dispute has gone so deep that the White House invited national and regional reporters into the Roosevelt Room this afternoon to express their frustration. ‘Small businesses shouldn't be held hostage to politics,' senior adviser David Axelrod said. ‘Make no mistake, it will be an issue (in the fall campaigns) if politics intrudes.'"
Yet another measure rejected by the extreme Republican right is a scaled back energy bill. In announcing failure to move the measure forward, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "We tried jujitsu. We tried yoga. We tried everything we can with Republicans to get them to come along with us and be reasonable."
The scaled back bill is much weaker than the comprehensive climate and energy legislation passed by the House last year. It would require oil companies to fully pay for oil spill damage, provide incentives for home energy efficiency and electric and natural-gas powered vehicles, and fund land and water conservation and cleanup - all of which would spur job-creation.
As one Facebook blogger pointed out, a short list of Republican-blocked measures include: Sen. Al Franken's anti-rape amendment to the defense appropriations bill; benefits for homeless veterans; health care; health care for the 9/11 first responders who got sick from being at Ground Zero; the jobs bill; financial reform; the stimulus bill; oil spill liability; political ad disclosure; and the windfall oil profits tax bill.
Today's vote will allow the Senate to pass a bill this week to provide $26 billion in aid to local and state governments to save teacher and other public sector jobs.
However the measure will come with a huge cost: cutting food stamp aid to the poor. Food stamp recipients will face "$11.9 billion rollback of added benefits first approved as part of the giant recovery bill last year. That translates into a reduction of about $47 a month for a family of three beginning in April 2014 or $516 over the first 12 months."
Hungry children: that's the cost of doing business with the Grand Old Party of right-wing opposition.