WASHINGTON — Legislation long sought by Democrats to save the jobs of up to 300,000 teachers, police and other public workers passed the Senate on Thursday.
The 61-39 vote — to be followed by a rush vote next week in the House — should come in time for many school districts to revisit decisions to lay off teachers before the new school year.
Senate passage was a hard-earned but partial victory for President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies. It caps months of effort by governors of both parties, public employee unions and others seeking to extend programs enacted in last year's economic stimulus law.
The $26 billion measure would provide $16 billion to help states fund their Medicaid budgets — and therefore free money for other priorities — and $10 billion for grants to school districts to forestall layoffs.
Advocates said the measure would stop the layoffs of up to 300,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees. Though scaled back, the bill also would salvage a victory for Democrats who have been unable to deliver most of the jobs help that they and Obama had planned.
"This is about saving jobs that are in immediate danger," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "It will allow us to avoid layoffs, service cuts, or tax increases and it will make sure our children don't walk through the schoolhouse doors this September to larger class sizes and fewer subjects."
Passage of the bill was assured after moderate Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine cast the key votes to break a GOP filibuster.