House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called her colleagues back into a special session, and they will vote today on a new stimulus spending bill. The pending legislation was originally passed in March as the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act (HR1586). Most of the language in that bill has been stripped out, and the legislation is now known as the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act.
The price tag has increased to $26 billion, the bill is geared to strengthening labor unions, and it is the top legislative priority of the AFL-CIO. The spending bill would be a significant boost for the largest union in the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which has a membership in excess of one million.
Last night Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Steve King (R-IA), Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), Joe Barton (R-TX) and Louis Gohmert (R-TX) participated in a conference call with conservative activists to rally opposition to HR1586 and more stimulus spending. They made three major points:
1. The legislation is Unconstitutional because it is a revenue bill and should have started in the House
2. The Speakers’s promises of a “transparent Congress” are false. She used the shell of HR 1586 concerning aviation matters, stripped it, and replaced it with a huge spending bill
3. According to Rep. King, “The purpose of this bill is to give this money to big labor, and the unions will use it to get Democrats elected in November. That is the only reason why the Speaker called a special session.”
Rep. Gohmert read yesterday’s press release from AFSCME president Gerry McEntee: “We are set to launch a robust field plan across the country during the month of August, including advertising and grassroots events. We intend to highlight the clear choice Americans will make in November between Democrats who are working to protect jobs and move the economy forward and Republicans who are willing to wreck the economy for political gain.”
The bill contains $16 billion for Medicaid and $10 billion to protect the jobs of teachers that could be eliminated by state budgets. Congressman Barton emphasized that teachers are important but these decisions should be made on the state level, the government has a huge deficit and it is now borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar it is spending.
Congresswoman Bachmann said there is already unspent stimulus money, and asked why the funds did not come from that allocation? She said why is it necessary to add to the deficit, and if this bill does pass, it should be at the top of the repeal list if the GOP takes control. Labor’s agenda was outlined in The Hill newspaper:
The AFL-CIO will begin a series of rallies, phone banks and letters thanking House members who voted for the legislation. In contrast, union members will campaign against candidates — likely primarily GOP ones — who voted against the bill and “put their political interests ahead of 900,000 jobs,” according to a union official.
The labor federation will be concentrating its resources in 23 states, with high priority given to California, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Political staff trained by the AFL-CIO will be on the ground in those states, along with press aides to drum up media interest. “We will do the most intensive on-the-ground education program that we have done in a number of years,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “We will be hitting every one of those battleground states.”