House approves $26B bill to aid states

The House on Tuesday put the final stamp on $26 billion in emergency state aid, agreeing to Senate legislation on a 247-161 vote before bolting town.

The vote to help states facing critical budget shortfalls — with $16 billion in Medicaid funding and $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs — capped an irregular day during a rare mid-recess session. 

But the funding bill was overshadowed by several events, including news that former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) had been in a plane crash in his home state. It was later confirmed that Stevens died.

With the House back in session, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) also seized another chance to grab the spotlight, taking to the floor for more than 30 minutes to defend himself, condemn his critics and dare his colleagues to expel him.

Democrats showed far more unity on the state aid bill than they've shown on just about any other piece of legislation that was potentially politically risky.

All but three Democrats — Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.) and Gene Taylor (Miss.) voted for the legislation that Republicans generally derided as another bailout. Two Republicans — Reps. Ahn "Joseph" Cao (La.) and Mike Castle (Del.) — voted for the legislation.

Before taking up the state aid bill, the House introduced and passed by voice vote a $600 million border-security bill mirroring legislation the Senate also passed last week. And House Democrats quickly dispensed with a privileged resolution from Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) that would have prevented Congress from holding a lame-duck session after the elections in the absence of a national emergency.

Democrats held together — with plenty of votes to spare — in killing Price's bill on procedural ground.