House Democrats are rolling the dice this week by returning from a recess that had barely begun to pass a $26 billion teacher jobs bill -- at a time when calls for fiscal restraint are dominating the campaign landscape.
Democrats and Obama administration officials say the package is paid for and will not add to the deficit. The bill, which is expected to pass, allows supporters to tout their role in saving tens of thousands of teachers and other government workers from being laid off before the start of the school year, and before the November election.
"This bill ... will help keep 160,000 teachers around the country in the classroom as we start school the next couple weeks rather than on the unemployment line," Education Secretary Arne Duncan told Fox News on Monday.
But at the same time, the vote takes members of Congress off the campaign trail to vote for yet another multibillion-dollar aid bill. And Republicans are not missing the opportunity to cite the looming vote as the latest example of Washington's addiction to spending -- something they claim they'll cure should they win back the majority in Congress.
"It amounts at this point in time to asking the citizens of responsible states like ours to subsidize those places who have been more reckless," Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told "Fox News Sunday." "It's probably not going to help the economy."
He described the continuing stream of state aid as a form of "trickle-down government" that is not spurring private job growth.
The bill is paid for with a cut to food stamps benefits and a tax increase on some multinational companies based in the United States. House Minority Leader John Boehner cited the provisions in claiming the jobs bill would have an adverse effect. Boehner said the vote just shows how oblivious Democrats are to concerns about spending.
"The American people don't want more Washington 'stimulus' spending -- especially in the form of a payoff to union bosses and liberal special interests," he said in a statement last week. "This stunning display of tone-deafness comes at the expense of American workers, who will be hit by another job-killing tax hike because Washington Democrats can't kick their addiction to more government 'stimulus' spending. Democrats should be listening to their constituents."
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, whose state reportedly is set to receive $250 million in education money from the bill, said that some of the "stimulus funding" has helped, but eventually it has to stop.
"I think it has to end soon because the federal government is running out of money," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." "We cannot continue to have all of the states rely on the federal government."
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, though, said that while the states do need to make cuts, the funding in the $26 billion package is necessary.
"This is not for bureaucracy. This is for people -- real people who need real help out here. And this bill was entirely funded," she said.
The state with the most to gain from the bill is California, set to receive $1.2 billion for education. The amount is projected to save up to 16,500 teacher jobs.
With California and other states still struggling to close gaping budget shortfalls, many lawmakers welcomed the congressional package. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a written statement that the money comes "just in time" for the start of the school year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called lawmakers back to Washington last week after the Senate broke a GOP filibuster that paved the way for the bill's passage -- just days after the House went on recess.
The bill is meant to provide both teacher and Medicaid funding to the states.
- 85 Days to Decide: Democrats Roll Dice With Education Aid Vote