Earlier this year, Democrats in the Senate tried three times to pass legislation that would help states deal with growing Medicaid rolls, the joint federal-state health care program for the poor. Each effort has failed in the face of united Republican obstructionism. Earlier this month, the Washington Post explained clearly why this legislation should pass:
States are staggering under the impact of the economic slump, with revenue down and demand for social services up. Some 30 states were counting on the Medicaid money to balance their budgets, as required by law. The other cuts they would be forced to make if the Medicaid funds are not forthcoming would further slow the economic recovery. Passing this package is the right thing to do, and fiscally prudent too.
The failure to pass this help for states, experts agree, will cause as many as a million additional job losses in both the private and the public sectors. Yet Senate Republicans continue to block passage.
Now, thanks to the leadership of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate has one more chance to do the right thing and protect nearly a million more jobs from going down the drain. Later today, the U.S. Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on a bill -- H.R. 1586 -- that will provide $26 billion in funding to help states deal with their budget shortfalls, bolster Medicaid and fund education jobs. But it's up to us to win it. The Republican congressional leadership has made their strategy clear -- they will say no at all costs.
This funding is fully paid for, so it is simply false for opponents to say that passage would increase the deficit. However I would be remiss if I didn't note that a part of the funding comes from a cut in future Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamp) benefits. However, it does not take effect until 2015, which gives us plenty of time to mobilize to make sure the cut never happens.
Yet, Republican opposition to the help for the states and the education money -- even if it's paid for -- intensifies as we inch closer toward November. Quite frankly, it looks clear to many that Republican leaders are doing everything they can to bring down the economy for political gain.
They think they will benefit on Election Day if more Americans lose their jobs and unemployment grows. It's in keeping with their leader Rush Limbaugh's professed goal in the early days of the Obama administration: "I want him to fail." Far too many GOP legislators are taking their cues from extremists on the right, and not listening to the message that voters are sending -- it's time to end the partisanship and look out for the interest of the American people.
By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Americans believe that saving and creating jobs is more important than reducing the federal deficit to move our economy forward. Considering how tone-deaf Washington has become on jobs, it's no wonder Americans are gloomy about the nation's economic recovery. Republican senators need to make a choice: Are they going to continue to obstruct, or will they stand with American families who want our economy to grow and want to put people back to work?
If we fail to break the Republicans legislative lockdown today, there should be no doubt that there will be more pain for working families, more debt and a prolonged recession. Every senator needs to know that it's time to stop the obstruction. It's time to protect American jobs.
If you care about the future of our economy and the jobs of nearly a million Americans, call your senators immediately and tell them to vote yes on cloture.
You can click on this link to make the call. Let me know that you've done it. It's time to get our economy and our country working again.