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Senate Passes Education Funding Bill

The Senate passed a $26 billion education and state funding bill Thursday that House Members will take up next week, when they will be summoned back to Washington for a hastily scheduled interruption in their August recess to clear the measure.

Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins joined Democrats in supporting the measure, which passed 61-39.

It cleared a procedural hurdle Wednesday, a feat even some Democrats did not anticipate.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said the bill, which includes $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs, will save teachers’ jobs and help cash-strapped states. On Wednesday, the Nevada Democrat urged the House to return to clear it. “I think it’s going to be very difficult for the House to be away from Washington for five weeks … without this legislation getting their stamp of approval,” Reid said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday she was calling Members back to Washington to take up the bill, which Democrats are championing as a key legislative victory they can tout back home during the crucial weeks before the midterm elections.

“As millions of children prepare to go back to school — many in just a few days — the House will act quickly to approve this legislation once the Senate votes,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “In consultation with our leadership, I am calling Members of the House back to Washington at the beginning of the week to pass this bill and send it to President Obama without further delay.”

Snowe and Collins were the only Senate Republicans to support the measure, and it is unclear how many House Republicans might vote for the bill. In the Senate, Republicans dubbed the bill a state bailout that is offset using budget trickery. Senate Budget ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) called the bill a handout to unions.

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