The Senate debated the bill for several days. The points of disagreement focused on the overall cost of the legislation, $410 billion, and the number of earmarks found throughout the bill. Despite the best efforts of appropriators to make the earmarking process transparent this year, opponents to this type of spending continue to rail against the bill and the process. President Obama criticized earmarking on the campaign trail and insisted he would change the budgeting and appropriation process to reduce or eliminate this kind of spending. He will wait until FY 2010, however, to state his case, hoping that Congress will finish this last piece of business from the previous Congress without his intervention.
Because of the intense disagreements among members on both sides of the aisle, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was forced to file a cloture motion to end debate on the bill. When he realized he was still one vote shy of the necessary 60, he decided to postpone final action. Rumor has it that some modest changes will be made to secure the magical 60 "yea" votes when the bill comes up again in the Senate on Tuesday, March 10. Education advocates are hopeful the bill will pass, as the alternative would mean a continuing resolution for the entire 2009 fiscal year, which would result in a loss to education funding of approximately $500 million.