Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin said today he will find "one way or another" to advance a $23 billion education jobs bill aimed at curbing teacher layoffs.
One possibility, according to a Senate Appropriations staffer, is to attach the measure to the war supplemental if it does not pass as a free-standing bill.
Harkin said he hopes the measure will attract some GOP support as a stand-alone bill. To date, no Republicans back the bill, but there are 25 Democratic co-sponsors.
If the Harkin measure latches on to the war-funding bill, it would nearly double the size of the supplemental.
The supplemental request, which was sent to the Hill in February, includes $37.5 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of FY10. Of that, $33 billion is for military operations and $4.5 billion is for the State Department's civilian operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to aid for Pakistan.
House Majority Leader Hoyer has said the House would act on the supplemental before Memorial Day, but no markup has been scheduled by the House Appropriations Committee. Senate appropriators are waiting for the House before they proceed with their markup of the spending bill.
In March, Defense Secretary Gates urged Congress to approve the supplemental by early spring to avoid "costly and counterproductive disruptions" to its operations. But Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale earlier this year set a Memorial Day deadline.
Harkin's comments came at a news conference this morning intended to marshal support for the education jobs bill. The budget cuts facing the public education system is a "crisis of the first order," Harkin said.
House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller and leaders of the two largest teachers' unions, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Dennis Van Roekel of the National Education Association, joined Harkin in the push for the emergency funds.
"There is not a lot of time," Miller said, referring to the fact that fiscal decisions for next school year are under way. "What Sen. Harkin is doing in the Senate is intended to speed this process up."
This article appears in the May 8, 2010 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.