WASHINGTON (AP) -- The sponsor of a narrowly defeated Democratic proposal to hire thousands of new public school teachers said the 50 Republican senators' votes against it will haunt them on Election Day.
"The reality will be very clear next fall, when these class sizes increase," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Her amendment was narrowly defeated as the administration and its Republican allies sought to assert control over debate on President Bush's education bill.
Tuesday's 50-48 vote marked the first time in several fitful weeks of debate that the Senate rejected a move to add spending to the legislation or to tighten controls over use of federal funds.
The class-size amendment was one of two major Democratic additions to the education bill. Late Tuesday, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced the second, a $1.6 billion construction measure that would help schools modernize and repair their facilities and wire them for the Internet. Lawmakers expected a similarly divided vote on Harkin's amendment.
Murray said her amendment was designed to reduce class size in public schools nationwide. The head of the Democratic senatorial campaign committee, she said Republicans "will find their opponents talking about this in the next election."
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican whose name will be on the ballot next year, voted against the proposal. "I want to give school districts local flexibility for spending the money," she said. To set classroom size as the "only priority, when schools have different needs depending on where they are, strikes me as a mistake."
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