By Mike Howells


Speaking on a conference call this afternoon, Governor Rendell and Senator Bob Casey, along with North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow urged Congress to pass legislation to extend enhanced Medicaid for a further six months, through June of 2011.


Senator Stabenow said Democrats are “absolutely committed” to the provisions of the bill, that she said will create jobs and ensure help for people who have lost their jobs and need temporary healthcare.


The bill would also extend unemployment benefits through November.


Despite the early stages of economic recovery, she said “we still have many people that are caught in a situation because we have, right now, six people looking for every one job that is available.”


“If the Republicans block this bill again, we are looking at 1.2 million Americans that don’t have a job now that will not receive the temporary health care they need,” she said.


Governor Perdue said that enhanced Medicaid and unemployment benefits are “essential” to America’s emergence from its recession. She warned if they are not approved, “there’s actually going to be shockwaves sent throughout the healthcare system and throughout the working families of America.”


The governor also said small businesses would be penalized as a result of inaction.


Senator Casey said it is rare to see an issue with such bipartisan support and general urgency about it. He pointed out there would be both a large fiscal and a large human impact if the bill is not passed. “We’ve got to get it done,” he said.


Governor Rendell agreed with Senator Casey’s sentiments and added that it is in essence a jobs bill. He warned that if the money is not forthcoming to Pennsylvania, 20,000 state jobs would have to be cut.


“To lay off 20,000 people…would just have an incredible breaking effect on the somewhat significant resurgence in the economy,” he said.


The governor also pointed out the FMAP money affects three out of every five states in the union.


The Senate is scheduled to vote on the measure tomorrow, though Senator Stabenow advised a cloture vote could come as early as tonight. A Republican substitute bill may also be considered and voted today as well, depending on how negotiations progress. She pointed out part of the reason for the uncertainty is due to “extraordinary misuse” of the filibuster in the Senate, resulting in the effective need for a supermajority to pass legislation.