As you know by now, late Friday a bipartisan deal was reached in the Senate on its version of the economic recovery bill, easing the way for the bill to pass that chamber. Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) were the architects of the deal and it will likely ensure the support of the entire Democratic caucus plus Republican Senators Collins, Olympia Snowe (ME) and Arlen Specter (PA). Their support should give us enough votes to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to defeat a Republican filibuster.
Importantly, the Nelson-Collins plan retains the $87 billion for state Medicaid programs along with a great deal of other spending for fiscally strapped state and local governments, but it does reduce some important funding from the original bill. Nelson-Collins eliminates about $100 billion in total spending. This includes about $65 billion to state and local governments, including $40 billion from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for education incentive grants and other vital needs. In addition to Medicaid, much of the other funding for state and local governments remains, including nearly $80 billion for education, more than $40 billion for transportation and highway improvements, $5 billion for public housing, $2 billion for child care, $1 billion for Head Start, $1 billion for COPS, $4 billion for clean water state funds, $2 billion for drinking water state funds, $1 billion for child support enforcement and more. Additional sums of money are still also included for the administration of Unemployment Insurance, Food Stamps and other programs. The modified Senate bill now stands at more than $820 billion. The House version is $819 billion. However, the Senate bill has less overall spending and more tax cuts compared to the House bill.
There is strong support for revisiting the lost spending in the regular appropriations process. In fact, Senator Nelson vowed to “fight to the death” to increase education funding following an AFSCME-organized press conference in Nebraska featuring NAPE/AFSCME Executive Director Mike Marvin and other advocates. Senator Specter, the Ranking Republican on the Education Appropriations Committee, also signaled support for this.
Today, at 5:30, there will be a cloture vote to end the filibuster. The vote on final passage is scheduled for Tuesday. The House and Senate leadership and the Obama administration will negotiate over the differences between the two bills with a plan to hold votes on a final bill late in the week.
During these negotiations, AFSCME will be working to achieve funding for state and local governments that reflects the higher level of funding in the House bill. However, our chance for success will be enhanced if a larger number of Republicans vote for the bill on Tuesday. Therefore, we ask you to reach out to your Senators once again and urge them to vote for the Senate bill. We will also be sending out an activist alert to generate calls to the Senate from AFSCME members.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees