The Senate on Wednesday passed legislation to authorize federal job training programs.
Passage of the legislation on a 95-3 vote marks a rare bipartisan area of agreement amid the Senate's election-year stalemate.
"In these 16 years, there have been several attempts to reauthorize this legislation, and they have all fallen short," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.
Reid said he hoped passage of the bill would help thaw the Senate's legislative logjam over the past several months.
"They say in basketball, if you’re not doing well, you have a lot of off days, that the best way for a shooter to get his rhythm back is to sink a couple of baskets," Reid said. "So I hope this theory proves true here in the Senate. It’s time we sank a couple of baskets. It’s time we start working together to get things done."
The legislation was negotiated by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), as well as their counterparts in the House.
It would authorize job training programs for six years and require them to document how many people are newly employed as a result.
Alexander, the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the measure would help unemployed workers obtain the training necessary to find jobs.
"It's too hard to find a job. It's too hard to create a job. We have some differences of opinion on what to do about it, but I think we agree that matching job skills to a job is a solution to millions of Americans," Alexander said.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), whose state has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, said authorizing the job training programs would match workers with the skills needed in the modern workforce.
"The need to improve our workforce investment system has crystallized during the Great Recession," Reed said. "Employers say they have open positions they cannot fill because they cannot find the workers with the skills they need today."
The Senate considered two Republican amendments, bringing the total number of roll calls on GOP amendments to 11 in this Congress.
Sen. Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) amendment, rejected 33-63, would make it optional to appoint and certify new local job training boards.
Additionally, Sen. Mike Lee's (R-Utah) amendment would require reviews of job training every four years. Funding for the programs would be reduced if they do not submit the reports. It was also rejected by a vote of 40-58.
— Alexander Bolton contributed.