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This Week In Congress August 13, 2010

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I'm Sara Sciammacco of Capitol News Connection. This Week in Congress...

Lawmakers were welcomed back in Washington after they thought they wouldn't have to return until September. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called everyone in for a one-day session to vote on a $26 billion jobs bill.

Before Tuesday's vote, Congressman Charlie Rangel took over the House floor for about a half hour. House members sat and listened intently as the New York Democrat told his colleagues he's staying put. Several calls for his resignation have come since a House panel accused him of 13 ethics violations.

RANGEL: I want somebody, and I don't think it's going to be people who have been critical of me for doing the same thing, that's going to be the judge, and I know the outside doesn't count because we judge the conduct of our own members. If I can't get my dignity back here then fire your best shot and get rid of me through expulsion.

Shortly after Rangel's remarks, lawmakers passed legislation to save teachers from losing their jobs. The bill also includes millions of dollars for Medicaid to help prevent further budget cuts. Blue Dogs, like Maryland Democrat Frank Kratovil, backed the spending measure because Democrats found a way to pay for it.

KRATOVIL: On issues related to spending that is probably the biggest area where I have diverted from my party and agreed sometimes with those on the side of the aisle saying, 'you are right, we have to figure out a way to pay for it.' Now the folks on the other side of the aisle are saying, 'you paid for it but we don't like the way you pay for it.'

One offset will come from ending tax credits on U.S. companies with foreign operations. Many Republicans, like Maryland's Roscoe Bartlett, see the legislation as a bailout and another spending bill the federal government can't afford.

BARTLETT: For starters I don't think federal involvement in education is constitutional and there's not a shred evidence that the federal government has done anything to improve education in this country. What we are trying to do in this bill is the exact equivalent of lifting yourself by your boot straps or pretending you can get yourself out of debt by getting another loan.

Later in the day word spread that Alaska's former Senator, Ted Stevens, died in a plane crash. Stevens lost a re-election bid in 2008 after serving in Congress for six decades. He has been praised for his work as an appropriator and for his involvement in improving the conditions of Native Americans. On Wednesday Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski spoke about his impact.

MURKOWSKI: He had a very special love and affection for those who lived in our rural communities, for Alaska natives in general, and worked tirelessly throughout his political career to help bring about a level of equity, trying to reduce the economic disparities that we would see in so many of our villages.

On Thursday, a couple of Senators returned to Washington to hold a rare recess session to pass a resolution honoring the late Senator and approved a $600 million border security package. Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar says the original House bill had more enforcement mechanisms, but he's pleased something is moving forward.

CUELLAR: This is not a Texas issue, not a partisan issue. This is an American issue for the safety. The threat is real and we need to take action now.

Like other Republicans, Texas Congressman Lamar Smith took a swipe at Democrats for not doing enough.

SMITH: If the Democrats were serious about immigration enforcement, they would include more funds for interior enforcement. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say it does not have enough resources to enforce our immigration laws.

Today most lawmakers are back in their home states on the re-election campaign trail. Next week more of the same, as members of Congress hope to continue August recess without any other interruptions.

That was This Week in Congress. I'm Sara Sciammacco, Capitol News Connection.

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