A procedural rule requiring that 60 senators vote to end debate on a piece of legislation has necessitated a more bi-partisan approach to passing an economic recovery in the Senate as compared to the House of Representatives. A series of amendments are expected to be offered and voted on throughout the day, as has been the case in days past, some beneficial to the higher education community and others detrimental. On Tuesday, Senator Harkin (D-IA) was successful in utilizing the amendment process to have $6.5 billion added to the funding already set-aside for NIH, for a total of nearly $10 billion to the agency. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is expected to offer an amendment that would increase the higher education infrastructure funding level in the Senate bill to $6 billion, which would equal the amount in the House bill.
A package of proposed cuts to the stimulus package is now being worked on by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME). The package is designed to scrub funding from the legislation that is not deemed as providing an immediate stimulus to the economy. The Nelson-Collins package is now seen as the only clear path to the 60 votes necessary to avoid a filibuster.
A final economic recovery package is likely to come to a vote in the Senate before Monday February 9th.