Earlier today, the U.S. Senate voted 61-38 to cut off debate and proceed to a vote on final passage of the Murray-Harkin amendment to H.R. 1586. All the Senate Democrats were joined by Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins from Maine to obtain the 60 votes necessary to end the filibuster on the amendment. This was a key procedural hurdle and paves the way for likely passage of the bill in the Senate before the end of the week, sending it back to the House of Representatives. Anticipating this Senate action, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken the highly unusual step of recalling the House, which had already adjourned for its August recess, for a vote on the bill early next week.
The Murray-Harkin amendment will provide $26 billion to help states deal with the crippling financial situations they are facing. $10 billion of that money is for the education jobs fund, which states can use to retain and hire K-12 teachers and other educational personnel. While the jobs fund does not extend directly to higher education, the maintenance of effort provision that states must comply with to receive these funds does set minimum spending levels for higher education. Many states have reported to AACC that this MOE language was instrumental in avoiding larger cuts to state higher education spending.
The Murray-Harkin amendment also includes $16 billion to extend increases to the federal Medicaid matching funds provided to States that were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These increases to the federal medical assistance percentage, or FMAP, were scheduled to cease at the end of 2010. The Murray-Harkin amendment will extend the increase for six additional months.
Taken together, the education jobs and FMAP funds will provide crucial fiscal relief to states, relieving the pressure on them to make cuts in other areas such as higher education.
Please call or email your Representative today and urge them to vote "Yes" on H.R. 1586 when they vote on the bill next week.