Defining the divide

Future historians looking for some defining evidence of the political divide that exists in this country will need to look no further that the votes that took place in Congress this month.

It was just last week that the impasse between Democrats and Republicans was broken and the Senate voted to approve a measure to earmark $26 billion in new federal aid to the states. The money will be targeted to prevent layoffs of teachers, health care workers, and other public employees. In the words of Democrats, it’s a “public sector job preservation” bill.

On Tuesday, although the House was in summer recess and its members were back in their home districts, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called them back to Washington for one day to vote on the Senate-approved measure. The bill passed the House by a vote of 247 to 161, and was quickly sent to the White House for President Obama’s signature. The measure is now the law of the land.

In approving the bill, President Obama said “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. That doesn’t make sense.”

In opposing the bill, House Republican leader John Boehner said, “We are broke. We do not have the money to bail out the states. It’s time for them to get their arms around their problems and not look to Washington to bail them out.”

Underscoring the great divide, all but two of the Republican members voted no and all but three Democrats voted in favor. Republicans were furious that the measure will raise taxes on some multinational corporations, while some Democrats were opposed to part of the new law that will lead to a cut in the growth of food stamp payments.

As for the immediate impact, Governor Patrick has said he will target the federal funds to restore much of the local aid to cities and owns that were slashed earlier this year. With the Legislature also in recess, it’s expected the leadership will follow the Congressional lead and re-convene for one more formal session this month.

“These funds will keep teachers in our classrooms and relieve some of the pressure on important services for vulnerable people,’’ the governor said.

Appearing in Dorchester at a National Health Center week event at Geiger Gibson health center on Columbia Point Tuesday afternoon, Senator John Kerry was cheered when he announced the House vote. He said the measure will contribute to shoring up health care for people in need in Massachusetts and around the country.

It also will keep thousands of teachers and other men and women fully employed. In this current economy, we believe that’s a good thing.

A plus for community journalism

Today’s Page One article by Stephen Kurkjian and Pat Tarantino was reported and written for our paper under the auspices of Northeastern University’s School of Journalism and Professor Walter Robinson’s investigative reporting seminar. The school has received grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation to support watchdog reporting projects for Boston-area community news organizations.

The Reporter is pleased to be associated with this pursuit of excellence in local journalism.
– E.F.