Obama Pushes For Aid To States

President Barack Obama on Tuesday made a last-minute pitch for $26 billion in aid to financially struggling states as his fellow Democrats were poised to approve a package they hope will boost their slumping election-year fortunes. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the rare step of interrupting the chamber's summer recess to bring lawmakers back to vote on the measure, which Obama insisted was needed to avoid hundreds of thousands of layoffs that would hurt the struggling U.S. economy. The Senate has already approved the legislation and the House, also controlled by the Democrats, was expected to pass it later on Tuesday before sending it to Obama for his signature. "We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe," Obama said, surrounded by teachers in the White House Rose Garden. The bill would send U.S. states $16.1 billion for Medicaid and $10 billion for schools in order to prevent states -- which could face budget shortfalls of more than $120 billion this year -- from cutting healthcare and teachers' jobs. The debate has become the latest political flashpoint ahead of the November congressional elections. Facing a wave of anti-Washington anger, Democrats hope to stave off big losses by convincing voters of their commitment to bringing down the high U.S. unemployment rate, now at 9.5 percent, and bolstering the slowing economic recovery. Republicans hope to build on public anxiety over the U.S. budget deficit, projected at $1.47 trillion this year, by contending the bill is wasteful and will reward some states unwilling to face up to their fiscal problems.