WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday cleared the way for a $26 billion package of aid to states and school districts, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said she would summon members from their summer recess to grant final approval to the bill.
The measure had been hung up by partisan wrangling between Democrats, who said it was necessary to avert layoffs of teachers and cutbacks in services by strapped states, and Republicans, who objected to another round of government spending and characterized it as a political payoff to unions.
The procedural vote in the Senate was 61-38, with the Maine Republicans, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, joining Democrats in support of ending debate. The Senate is set for a final vote today before adjourning for its recess.
The vote quickly prompted calls for the House, which adjourned on Friday, to return to Washington. And in a Twitter message Wednesday afternoon, Pelosi said lawmakers would reconvene next week to approve the bill and send it to President Barack Obama.
The legislation would provide $10 billion to retain teachers who might otherwise lose jobs to cutbacks, and an additional $16 billion to help states struggling to close budget deficits.
While the move will interrupt summer campaigning, the vote will give Democrats a concrete accomplishment they can trumpet at a time when unemployment remains high. Republicans, in turn, immediately criticized the bill as catering to teachers' unions and another example of irresponsible spending by Democrats.
Obama praised the Senate's action, saying it would save teacher jobs and ensure "cash-strapped states can get the relief they need."
The House had approved money to save teacher jobs as part of an emergency war spending bill. But the Senate rejected it.