Democrats, Republicans Question Obama's Layoff Package

The president asked for $50 billion to help prevent teacher, police, and firefighter layoffs.


President Obama asked Congress Saturday to pass a $50 billion emergency aid package to stimulate state economies and to prevent teacher, police, and firefighter layoffs. The request comes at a time when the House is sitting on a multi-billion dollar appropriations bill and concern over congressional spending is high.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Obama said that 84,000 state and local government jobs have been lost this year. The president said these layoffs have a larger financial impact beyond the loss of service jobs in state and local communities. "It will also mean more costs in helping these Americans look for new work, while their lost paychecks will mean less tax revenues and less demand for the products and services provided by other workers," said Obama in a letter to House and Senate leaders.

Both House leaders said they are weary of introducing entirely new spending measures. "It's accurate that there's spending fatigue, not only on Capitol Hill, but around the country," said Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer on ABC's This Week. [See which industries give money to Hoyer.]

Hoyer asked the president to look to the $787 billion dollar stimulus package passed last year to finance the new emergency aid request. "There are clearly funds in there that have not been expended," said Hoyer. The White House should "see whether or not there are some available for this more immediate priority than some that may not be quite as immediate."

Minority Leader John Boehner acknowledged the threat of widespread layoffs but said he is more concerned about the growing deficit. "The American people are screaming at the top of their lungs, 'stop,'" said Boehner. "To move this without finding other offsets in spending, I think, is irresponsible." [See who is giving money to Boehner's campaign.]

The House has yet to mark up their $85 billion spending bill, which includes $23 billion to prevent impending layoffs, and it is unclear when they will pass a budget. The Senate pushed through a $58.8 billion dollar spending measure last month without a layoff prevention measure.