The aide speculated that Obamas sudden push to help teachers may be about making nice with the unions after Sen. Blanche Lincolns (D-Ark.) primary win last week. Organized labor spent $10 million to try to help Lt. Gov. Bill Halter topple Lincoln, who had Obamas backing. Lincolns victory sparked sniping between the White House and labor leaders about their decision to throw that kind of money to try to take out an administration-backed candidate.
Harkin said in a statement Monday that he welcomed Obamas push to prevent as many as 100,000 teachers from being laid off this fall regardless of what piece of legislation that funding is tied to.
Obama recognizes the urgency of this emergency situation and I welcome his support as we advocate for this much-needed funding on any relevant piece of legislation moving in Congress, Harkin said.
Still, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that lawmakers are facing spending fatigue and may not be inclined to pass Obamas new aid package without offsets. Hoyer said he asked the White House to try to find money for the package by tapping into unused funds from last years $800 billion stimulus bill.
There are clearly funds in there that have not been expended, Hoyer said on ABCs This Week, adding that he will push to see whether or not there are some available for this more immediate priority.
Another senior Democratic aide said the problem is less about Obama springing a $50 billion emergency spending proposal on Congress at a time when people are calling for fiscal discipline and more about the lack of a strategy for clearing such a measure through Congress. But the aide credited the administration for being reasonably consistent about communicating that more needs to be done to stimulate the economy in the short term while containing debt in the long term.
Obamas letter does in fact lay out the same short-term/long-term logic, which is absolutely the right policy, the senior aide said. But what has clearly been lost in the messaging war is the need to stay focused on this two-pronged approach to restoring the economy.
I think Hill people are right to ask why there was such a show last week with [White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag] asking each department to find 5 percent to cut next year, but then on Saturday, writing the leaders to spend more on teachers and [state Medicaid assistance] right now, the aide said.