The U.S. Senate has voted to move forward on a $26.1 billion funding bill that would provide aid to states for education and Medicaid spending.

The vote was 61-38 this morning.

U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine, both voted to end debate on the package, which is completely offset by spending cuts and already approved unspent funds.

Previously, the pair had expressed concerns about continued deficit spending, though they supported providing aid to states still struggling to weather the economic recession. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the measure would reduce the deficit by about $1.37 billion over the next 10 years.

Democratic leadership needed 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle put forth by Republicans.

Snowe and Collins received public and private pressure from Maine advocates who supported the legislation, including the Maine Health Care Association and the Maine Children’s Alliance.

The legislation would provide more than $70 million in aid to Maine, which is facing up to a $100 million budget deficit, based on the assumption the federal aid would have been approved earlier this year. 

“We’re all concerned about long-term deficits, but the short-term problem is the jobs deficit and these two measures will extend support to state deficits to prevent further job cuts that would otherwise be required,” said Kit St. John, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy during a conference call discussing the bill earlier this week. The Maine Center for Economic Policy is a liberal think tank based in Portland. 

St. John said  2,000 to 3,000 jobs were potentially at stake without the additional federal funding.