Senate Rejects School Voucher Amendment

March 25, 2013

As you might have heard, the United States Senate this past weekend conducted a 13-hour voting session during which it considered dozens of proposed amendments to the 2014 Senate Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 8).

The session, commonly referred to as a “vote-a-rama,” began Friday around 4 p.m., and ended Saturday around 5 a.m. The Senate weighed in on 70 amendments before finally passing its first budget in four years. 

Three of the more than 400 proposed amendments concerned federal school voucher or similar programs that would allow taxpayer dollars intended for the public school system to support private and religious schools: Amendment #515, sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN); Amendment #290, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); and Amendment #201, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). 

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) was well aware of these efforts, and joined the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) last week in writing every senator to vote down these or any similar last-second amendments. We followed up those letters with calls to every senator’s office. 

We also urged our members to contact their senators and tell them to vote “no” on any voucher amendments. 

Today, I am glad to report that the Senate considered only one of the three proposed school voucher amendments, Amendment #515, which it soundly rejected by a vote of 60-39. 

The reason the Senate considered only one of the three proposed voucher amendments is likely the result of the first vote. Sixty represented a significant number of votes against in a session where most of the votes were much closer, for example, 50 to 49 or 54 to 45.
I am also glad to report that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) — a Roman Catholic who delivered a video address at the Reason Rally — spoke out against the measure during floor debate. 
This result is at least partially a consequence of the collective efforts of the member organizations of the NCPE, and the thousands of people who filled out action alerts and contacted their senators.
A win for secularism: the perfect start to the work week.