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Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Stimulus

The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved some $125 billion on education programs as part of a mammoth $825 billion economic stimulus package.

The bill was approved on a 21-9 vote, with some more moderate Republicans crossing over to vote with the Democrats. Other GOP lawmakers, however, argued that they were shut out of the process of crafting the bill and that the measure would do little to stimulate the stumbling economy.

The education provisions in the Senate bill are pretty similar to those in the House version of the measure, as I detailed here. Additionally, there's $16 billion for K-12 school construction and $2.1 billion for Head Start. You get can more details in this story on the Senate Appropriations meeting.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama was up on Capitol Hill today to meet with GOP lawmakers to address their concerns with the bill.

It's likely to be tough sledding. Just yesterday, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of California, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, released a statement lambasting the stimulus package, saying that it wouldn't do much to generate economic growth.

"American workers, families, and businesses desperately need an economic stimulus package. Unfortunately, that’s not what congressional Democrats are offering,” said Rep. McKeon in a statement. “Instead, their package is nothing more than a mega-sized supplemental spending bill that will saddle future generations with almost unimaginable debt."

And he argued that education programs, such as Pell Grants and Head Start, would see a major drop in funding after the money in the measure has been doled out.

Expect other Republicans, and maybe even some conservative Democrats, to make similar arguments when the full House of Representatives considers their version of the stimulus measure tomorrow.

Update: Mike Petrilli has a good post over at Flypaper saying that many of the provisions sought by "reform" minded lawmakers in the House version of the stimulus didn't make it into the Senate bill. And he makes an interesting point there.

The Senate measure doesn't contain money for the Teacher Incentive Fund, as we reported in our web story. And it doesn't include the $250 million for state data systems as in the House bill. And there isn't a separate $25 million fund for charter school facilities.

Does this spell a major split within the Democratic party, as Mike suggests in his post? Possibly. But Democrats helped put together the House measure in which all these programs originally appeared. So it may say more about differences in the House and Senate priorities than anything else. What do you think?

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