Democrats seek help from moderate Maine Republicans

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A $26 billion measure to help states and local school boards with their severe budget problems faces a make-or-break vote Wednesday as Senate Democrats try one last time to advance their faltering jobs agenda.

The bill would extend programs enacted in last year’s stimulus law to help preserve the jobs of tens of thousands of teachers and other public employees.

Wednesday’s vote to break a GOP filibuster comes after Democratic leaders made final tweaks to the measure in hopes of winning the votes of moderate Maine Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Snowe and Collins provided the key votes last month to pass a six-month extension of jobless assistance for the long-term unemployed.

A vote scheduled for Monday was postponed after an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office showed the measure would add to the deficit. Snowe and Collins also had been concerned about cuts to Navy shipbuilding accounts since the Bath Iron Works is so essential to their state’s economy. Majority leader Harry Reid got rid of the proposed cuts Monday night.