The Senate on Thursday passed an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education law, an action that senators on both sides of the aisle agreed was long overdue.
Senators voted 81-17 to pass the Every Child Achieves Act, which transfers more decision-making power to state and local authorities.
While No Child Left Behind was passed under former President George W. Bush, the weeklong debate in the Senate over changes to the law was among the least divisive of Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTHE MEMO: Trump's wild first month Juan Williams: Senate GOP begins to push Trump away Republicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy MORE’s (R-Ky.) six-month tenure as majority leader.
"The pundits told us it would never happen. Republicans and Democrats will never agree on a way to replace No Child Left Behind, they said. But a new Senate that’s back to work is proving them wrong," McConnell said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who spearheaded the bill, repeatedly thanked Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidIf Gorsuch pick leads to 'crisis,' Dems should look in mirror first Senate confirms Mulvaney to be Trump’s budget chief Democrats declare victory after Puzder bows out MORE (D-Nev.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Oprah's network provides Senate with tape of abuse allegations by Puzder's ex-wife: report How many GOP senators will stand up to megadonor DeVos? Just 2. MORE (D-Wash.) for their cooperation.
"He's helped to create an environment that permitted this to move in an orderly fashion," he said, thanking Reid again Thursday ahead of the vote.
Education Secretary Arne DuncanArne DuncanObama Education secretary condemns protest against DeVos at DC school Dems, GOP battle over pace of Trump confirmations The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE called the passage of the Senate bill "progress," but added that it "should also do more to maintain focus on what matters most.”
"This bill still falls short of truly giving every child a fair shot at success by failing to ensure that parents and children can count on local leaders to take action when students are struggling to learn," he added.
But the legislation wasn't without controversy.
Reid threatened earlier this week that Democrats would block the bill unless they were granted more amendment votes.
"We are not going to allow cloture to succeed unless we have a pathway forward on these amendments," he said on Monday evening.
Alexander was able to get a deal on allowing for dozens of additional amendments, many from Democrats.
Reid did fire a closing salvo Thursday, saying that the Senate could have passed an overhaul years ago if Republicans had cooperated.
A group of conservative Republicans, including presidential contender Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzTrump to interview four candidates for national security adviser Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at CPAC Reports: Petraeus off the list, Trump down to three candidates to replace Flynn MORE (R-Texas), had pushed to use the legislation to crack down on "sanctuary cities" in the wake of the recent killing of Kathryn Steinle. The suspect in the shooting of the 32-year-old is an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.
Had Cruz’s gambit succeeded, it would have threatened Democratic support and likely derailed the bill.
Republican Sens. Cruz, Rand PaulRand PaulTrump’s feud with the press in the spotlight Rand Paul: We’re very lucky John McCain’s not in charge Rand Paul: John Bolton would be a 'bad choice' for national security adviser MORE (Ky.) and Marco RubioMarco RubioRepublicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy Top Dem: GOP is terrified of Trump McConnell on Trump: 'I'm not a fan of the daily tweets' MORE (Fla.), who are running for president, as well as Sens. Roy BluntRoy BluntJudiciary Committee wants briefing, documents on Flynn resignation Intel Dem: House GOP now open to investigating Flynn Dems: 'Crazy' to trust GOP to investigate Flynn MORE (Mo.), Mike CrapoMike CrapoTime for the feds to deregulate gun suppressors Senate votes to repeal transparency rule for oil companies Live coverage of Sessions confirmation hearing MORE (Idaho), Steve Daines (Mont.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOvernight Tech: GOP chairman to propose high-skilled visa overhaul | Zuckerberg's 5,700 word letter | Tech lobbies gear up ahead of internet fight Senate Dem blasts GOP for trying to repeal broadband privacy rules Planned Parenthood targets GOP lawmakers amid ObamaCare protests MORE (Ariz.), Mike LeeMike LeeTop antitrust senators call for Sessions to scrutinize AT&T-Time Warner merger Public lands dispute costs Utah a major trade show GOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranJerry MoranVerizon angling to lower price of Yahoo purchase: report Microsoft president calls for ‘digital Geneva Convention’ GOP senators to Trump: We support 'maintaining and expanding' Gitmo MORE (Kansas), James Risch (Idaho), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Tim ScottTim ScottOvernight Finance: Trump's Labor pick withdraws | Ryan tries to save tax plan | Trump pushes tax reform with retailers Puzder withdraws nomination for Labor secretary Ryan tries to save tax plan MORE (S.C.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and David VitterDavid VitterMercury brings on former Sen. Vitter, two others Lobbying World Bottom Line MORE (La.) bucked McConnell to vote against the bill.
The 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which included a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, expired in 2007. Congress has not passed legislation to extend it since then.
Supporters of the Senate bill said the overhaul gets rid of the teach-to-the-test mentality that they argue has dominated public schools since No Child Left Behind's inception.
The legislation also includes updates from dozens of senators in reaction to recent events.
For example, a provision from Sen. Tim KaineTim KaineMattis on rise in Trump administration Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick Steve Mnuchin, foreclosure king, now runs your US Treasury MORE (D-Va.) would require schools that receive federal funding to report what they are doing to educate students about safe relationships.
The measure comes after Kaine met with a group at the University of Virginia in the wake of now debunked Rolling Stone article about rape at the university.
The bill now heads to a conference with House lawmakers, who passed a more conservative overhaul earlier this month.
Alexander tried to downplay any potential conflict.
"I've had numerous discussions with Chairman Kline," he said. "We know better than to try to make our institutions to do the same thing. ... There's some important differences and we'll have to work those out."
Even if lawmakers are able to reconcile the bill, it's unclear if President Obama will sign it, with the administration expressing opposition to both the House and Senate bills.
This story was last updated at 5:12 p.m.