Lawmakers came to a surprisingly swift agreement Thursday on a plan to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main federal law that subsidizes school programs. A House-Senate conference left a bipartisan compromise largely untouched, providing a rare moment of harmony for Congress.

"We have shown that not only is there consensus on the need to fix the education bill, this vote showed that there is a consensus on how to fix it," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The legislation will likely be voted on by Congress after it returns from its Thanksgiving recess.

The approval was a triumph for Alexander and the other architects of the bill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Rep. John Kline, R-Min., and Bobby Scott, R-Va. The bill is a highly politicized issue, with several groups, most notably teachers unions, civil rights groups and conservative activists expressing strong concerns over it.

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