House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was afflicted Wednesday with a case of political schizophrenia.
Pelosi had called the House back for a rare August session mainly to approve an economic assistance bill intended to prevent layoffs of some 300,000 teachers and others nationally, after the Senate passed the legislation last week.
Lawmakers voted to approve the bill, H.R. 1586, the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act on a vote of 247 to 161, and President Obama immediately signed it into law.
What should have been a feel-good victory for the speaker proved a bit more vexing, however.
Pelosi’s malady was caused by separate measures within the bill designed to pay for the legislation such that it won’t add to the mounting federal budget deficit, the so-called “pay-fors.”
On the one hand, Pelosi had gone to the House floor specifically to crow not only that the legislation wouldn’t add to the federal deficit, but extolled the virtues of how the bill was paid for. But later in the day, a Pelosi spokesman released a statement that criticized a separate funding mechanism.
“The pay-for in this legislation, which repeals the opportunity for businesses to get a tax break for sending jobs overseas, is part of our ‘Make it in America’ agenda. ‘Make it in America’ means manufactured in America. It also enables people to make it in America,” Pelosi says in her floor statement.
“This is about innovation—innovation that is created here with our creativity and the benefit of our education system and our entrepreneurial spirit and the rest,” she adds. “And then it says when we have the idea and we create the innovation, that we create the jobs here to produce it, to manufacture it and not to scale up overseas. Invent here; create the jobs overseas. No. Invent here; manufacture here; and market to the world. This is really important legislation also because of the way it is paid for.”
Pelosi went on to acknowledge that there were other “pay-fors” she wasn’t so happy about, specifically cuts to federal energy programs and food stamp assistance.
Senate Democrats used $1.5 billion from a federal energy loan-guarantee fund to help pay for the jobs legislation after already having used $2 billion from that same fund last year to pay for the popular Cash for Clunkers car-rebate program.
What began as a nice “two-fer” for the speaker — saving hundreds of thousands jobs, while simultaneously closing a tax loophole she and other Democrats found egregious — suddenly became troubling.
The speaker’s mood apparently darkened about the use of those energy funds to the degree that her spokesman followed up with a terse statement.
“Increased funding for renewable energy projects that create jobs here at home and reduce our dependence on dirty and foreign fuels have been a top economic, national security, and environmental priority of Speaker Pelosi,” spokesman Drew Hammill says. “The Speaker has been assured by the Obama Administration that it will work to restore these funds so that loans planned for later this year can move forward.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.