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 McConnellSchumer blocks one-week stopgap funding bill Overnight Finance: Dems explore lawsuit against Trump | Full-court press for Trump tax plan | Clock ticks down to spending deadline Hundreds of former EPA employees blast Trump on climate change 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 ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate confirms Labor Secretary Acosta Dems unveil bill targeting LGBT harassment on college campuses Trump said he would create ‘more jobs and better wages’ — he can start with federal contractors 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 meets with Chicago youth ahead of Monday speech Education's DeVos, unions need to find way to bridge divide and work together Ex-Education head: Trump transgender rollback ‘thoughtless, cruel’ 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 CruzNet neutrality fight descends into trench warfare Secret Service: No guns at Trump NRA speech Cruz: Breaking up 9th Circuit Court ‘a possibility’ 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 PaulRand Paul to teach a course on dystopias in George Washington University Destructive 'fat cat' tax law a complete flop. It's time to repeal it. Trump must take action in Macedonia to fix damage done by Obama and Clinton MORE (Ky.) and Marco RubioMarco RubioOvernight Defense: Commander calls North Korea crisis 'worst' he's seen | Trump signs VA order | Dems push Trump to fill national security posts What’s with Trump’s spelling mistakes? Boeing must be stopped from doing business with Iran MORE (Fla.), who are running for president, as well as Sens. Roy BluntRoy BluntUnited explains passenger removal to senators Disconnect: Trump, GOP not on same page GOP senator: There will never be full U.S.-Mexico border wall MORE (Mo.), Mike CrapoMike CrapoBattle begins over Wall Street rules Lawmakers call for pilot program to test for energy sector vulnerabilities Senators war over Wall Street during hearing for Trump's SEC pick MORE (Idaho), Steve Daines (Mont.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeTrudeau, Trump speak for second night about US-Canada trade Trump says he may break up 9th Circuit Court after rulings go against him Trump administration weighing order to withdraw from NAFTA MORE (Ariz.), Mike LeeMike LeeWhat to know about Trump's national monuments executive order ObamaCare must be fixed before it collapses Trump signs order to end 'egregious abuse' of national monuments MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranJerry MoranAt the table: The importance of advocating for ABLE GOP lawmakers lead way in holding town halls Yahoo reveals new details about security MORE (Kansas), James Risch (Idaho), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Tim ScottTim ScottWhat prospective college students need to know before they go — or owe Lobbying World Juan Williams: The complicated story of black conservatism MORE (S.C.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and David VitterDavid VitterFormer senator who crafted chemicals law to lobby for chemicals industry Former GOP rep joins K Street lobbying firm Capitol Counsel Lobbying World 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 KaineDemocrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Overnight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record Kaine, Schiff press Trump on legal justification for Syria strike 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.