WASHINGTON -- President Obama's decision to separate his jobs bill into individual pieces and push for funds to hire teachers and first responders first has so far failed to convince any Republicans lawmakers of its efficacy. And in large part, the pushback from the GOP has been fairly straightforward. As House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office argued in an email on Monday, the administration has already asked for and received billions of dollars in direct aid to states for the purposes of retaining teachers and putting firefighters and cops back to work -- and it hasn't made a lick of difference.
"Will the President at some point explain the endgame to this economic strategy?" said Press Secretary Brendan Buck.
It's unlikely that any explanation offered by the White House will end up changing the vote count substantially enough to get a bill passed. But various indicators dispute the notion that state governments, and the jobs they support, haven't benefited from past infusions of federal cash -- most convincing among them from the states themselves.
Take, for example, Virginia, the state where the president is speaking on Tuesday as part of an ongoing effort to sell his jobs bill. A spokesperson for the Department of Education there tells The Huffington Post that 7,715 teacher jobs have been saved or created because of the money provided by the recovery act. The spokesperson, Julie Grimes, wasn't completely certain whether that total included the $26 billion in additional money that Congress appropriated in an emergency jobs bill passed in August of 2010. News reports around that time indicated that Virginia would receive $246.6 million in federal aid that would save 3,800 teacher positions in the state.
These figures, it should be noted, were provided by the education department of a Republican-run state government. Gov. Bob McDonnell has been a vocal critic of federal spending. But in February of 2010, he along with 46 other governors signed a letter requesting federal "assistance in protecting jobs and speeding economic recovery by extending the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's enhanced federal match for Medicaid (FMAP) for two additional quarters."
One early criticism of the Obama administration's state aid program was that governors were simply using the money they were allocated to fill in budget shortfalls, rather than fund job creation measures. But an administration official confirmed that the funds currently being debated, like the money passed in 2010, has strings attached: it can only be used to hire or retain teachers and first responders. According to a fact sheet distributed by the White House, Virginia could stand to receive more than $425 million in funds, which would support 5,500 jobs, if Congress passes this specific portion of the American Jobs Act.
Republican leadership has been presented with these data points before. But in light of yet another debate over what role, if any, the federal government should play in helping out states, GOP aides have fallen back on the argument that another cash infusion would do little to solve the long-term problems of unemployment.
"[C]an we simply expect the President to be asking for another big check next year as well?" asked Buck, Boehner's press secretary. "Maybe it’s time we try an approach focused on putting folks back to work for the long haul."
There are several reasons that the White House has successfully gotten money for teacher and first responder aid through Congress in the past. The most obvious is that there were more Democrats than Republicans in office. Beneath the whip counts, however, was the pressure that Republican state lawmakers put on their federal colleagues to lend a hand.
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