Updated No Child Left Behind Passes both Chambers of Congress

Updated No Child Left Behind Passes both Chambers of Congress

Once differences are worked out, a final bill will head to President for signature

June 17, 2015 - With yesterday’s passage of the Every Child Achieves Act, S. 1177, by the United States Senate both chambers of Congress have finally completed work on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind.

The House of Representative passed its version of the reauthorization, the Student Success Act / H.R. 5 on July 8, 2015.

 Enacted in 2001, No Child Left Behind was due for reauthorization since 2007, but despite numerous attempts by several Congresses, a reauthorization vote by both chambers has not happened until now.

Two Very Different Bills

The bill had passed out of the House Education Committee in February with the support of only the Republican members of the Committee and not a single Democrat member’s vote. It was introduced, and then pulled, from the House floor in February when it became clear to the House Leadership that the measure would not pass. 
Last week, with the bill again introduced on the House floor, lawmakers considered 14 amendments and a Democrat substitute before passing H.R. 5 on a very close, partisan vote of 218 to 213. No Democrat voted for the House bill and 27 Republican members also voted against it. The 213 votes for passage all came from Republican House Members. On the Senate side things were completely different and very bipartisan. S. 1177 was passed by a vote of 81 to 17 with support of both Republican and Democrat Senators. Before its introduction on the Senate floor, the bill had been passed unanimously by the 22 Republican and Democrat members of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor & Welfare (HELP) Committee. 

 Before the final vote on July 16, 2015, the Senate had considered nearly 100 amendments from Senators during the Committee process and floor debate on final passage. This may have accounted for the bipartisan, consensus vote for the measure by the Senate.

The two bills have some common elements and some differences.

What Happens Next?

Because the House and Senate bills are different, a Conference Committee made up of Senators and Representatives will be named to negotiate the differences and come up with a final version of the bill.

Both the House and Senate will need to again vote on the conference report before the final bill is sent to the President. That could be a problem.
President Obana has already threatened a veto of the House bill, H.R. 5, as it is currently written. So the Senate will need to convince its House colleagues to change a few of their bill’s provisions. But it appears that if the House measure is changed to reflect some provisions of the Senate bill, House passage will require the vote of at least some Democrat members. This could create problems for the House Leadership.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), HELP Committee Chair, said he's had "numerous" conversations with Representative John Kline (R-MN), the chairman of the House education committee and author of that chamber's bill.

"We're on parallel paths," Alexander said. "We know better than to try to make our institutions do exactly the same thing, but ... our bills are not that different."

The conference process will begin as soon as possible and likely last several weeks.
Alexander predicted they'd be able to get a bill to the president's desk in the fall.

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