WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate voted 61-38 Wednesday to advance a bill that would provide $26 billion in aid to states to help prevent teacher layoffs and make up for budget shortfalls.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine voted with majority Democrats in favor of moving forward with the bill. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., was absent for voting.
Senators have called on House members to return from their August recess and vote on the bill.
“I will be calling the House back into session early next week to save teachers’ jobs and help seniors & children,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a Twitter message Wednesday afternoon.
The bill, if it becomes law, would provide $10 billion to state and local education systems to pay teachers’ salaries and $16 billion to states to help offset Medicaid costs and help states make up for budget shortfalls
The bill is estimated to save 140,000 jobs for teachers, firefighters, policemen and civil employees.
The costs of the bill are fully offset by cuts in federal spending.
Republicans complained that the bill was about special interests, while Democrats said it was about saving jobs in a recession.
“Today’s vote offered a simple choice,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “We could either stand up for the jobs of teachers, firefighters and police officers by saying yes, or we could have turned our back on them and their families by saying no,” Reid said.