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“We’re focused on doing our part right now. This is a unique opportunity for the Senate to move first,” said Justine Sessions, the Democrats’ spokeswoman for the HELP Committee.

The House and Senate committees will hold competing hearings on education Thursday. Mr. Harkin, who also chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services and education and related agencies, will meet at 10 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building to review the administration’s 2012 budget request for the Department of Education. At the same time in the Rayburn House Office Building, the Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on education reforms. Witnesses for the House hearing have yet to be announced.