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House Returns to Empty Stage

Democrats, Republicans Eager to Hog August Spotlight, if Only for One Day

The House — often a third fiddle to the Senate and the White House — has a rare moment in the spotlight today as it reconvenes to clear a $26 billion state aid package intended to prevent layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers and other state and local government workers.

The extraordinary session in the midst of the summer recess has Members scrambling to attend but also gives both parties another chance to show off their strategies heading into November.

“I don’t think we Democrats need to make this any more complicated. ... Democrats are coming back and protecting jobs and Republicans are trying to fire a whole bunch of people,” a senior Democratic aide said.

But while Democrats will talk about their efforts to save jobs by closing a tax loophole they say helps companies ship jobs overseas, Republicans will charge Democrats with giving states another bailout paid for by a tax increase.

On Monday, they also attacked Democrats for a goof in the bill: The Senate-passed text gives the bill the title the “ ____ Act of ____” rather than a proper title.

“Once again, the Democratic majority’s rush to enact unpopular legislation with questionable objectives will result in sloppy lawmaking,” said Rep. David Dreier (Calif.), the ranking member on the Rules Committee. “If they can’t get the name of the bill right, what other problems might be lurking under the hood?”

Another legislative glitch appeared likely to sink chances for clearing a $600 million border security bill unexpectedly passed by the Senate last week.

House Democrats will probably start over with a new House bill today and send it back to the Senate because of constitutional concerns, according to a Democratic leadership aide.

The Constitution requires revenue measures to originate in the House. Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) border security bill, which would add 1,500 border guards plus equipment, was introduced just hours before it was attached as an amendment to a House appropriations bill and passed by unanimous consent.

The Senate goofed, the aide said, by attaching a revenue hike to an appropriations bill instead of using a House-passed tax measure. Schumer’s bill is paid for largely with a higher fee on work visas.

The Obama administration has urged the House to clear the Senate-passed bill and send it to the president’s desk. The House’s initial bill passed by voice vote last month.

The Senate would then have the choice of returning early to clear the bill or waiting until its scheduled return in September.

Don’t expect the Senate to cut short its break. “We expect to take up the legislation again, hopefully by unanimous consent, when we return in September,” said a Senate Democratic leadership aide.

Either way, Democrats have taken heat from immigration reform advocates for giving in to a Republican priority without getting anything in return.

“Last week, by succumbing to crass political considerations, rather than sound policymaking, Senate Democrats succeeded in clumsily orchestrating an outrageous betrayal of immigrant, faith, law enforcement, border communities and Latino communities by rushing yet another symbolic border enforcement bill through the Senate that throws more enforcement dollars at an already broken immigration system,” said Ali Noorani, chairman of the National Immigration Forum.

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