House Saves Worthy Programs from Education Budget Axe
Washington--The House of Representatives, defying President Reagan's latest budget-cut request, last week approved a fiscal 1982 funding bill that would provide $13.9 billion for the Department of Education.
The package is 10-percent larger than the $12.6 billion requested by the Administration, although it represents a 6-percent cut from last year's department budget.
The bill's passage is considered a victory for House Democrats, who successfully defeated a Republican-led attempt to send the measure back to the Appropriations Committee to make the President's requested cuts.
Among those voting against "recommitting" the bill to committee were several moderate Republicans. One of them was Silvio O. Conte of Massachusetts, the ranking minority member of the Appropriations Committee. Mr. Conte defended the bill's size as "America's investment in humanity,...both fiscally responsible and humanly responsive."
Another, Representative Bill Green of New York, said he had pre3viously voted with President Reagan on the budget "reconciliation" and tax-cut packages. "This was a message to the budget cutters that the House does not want to see the 'safety net' cut to shreds," he said.
The two-hour opening debate included an expression of gratitude from Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, to William H. Natcher, a fellow Kentuckian who is chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that marked up the bill.
Mr. Perkins, who has presided over the growth of federal education funding for 14 years, thanked Mr. Natcher for "providing some increases for the most worthy programs, such as Title I and vocational education."
"I do not think we should lose sight of the fact," he cautioned, "that we took a 12-percent cut just as soon as President Reagan came in, for fiscal year 1981.
We are presently serving less than 50 percent of the disadvantaged children of this nation."
The education appropriation is part of a $87.3-billion package that6also includes the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services (hhs), along with 12 smaller federal agencies.
Because the bill is so large--it is second in size only to the defense appropriations bill--it is considered by Administration officials to be a crucial vehicle for achieving a total of $16 billion in budget reductions this year, above and beyond the $35 billion in cuts enacted in the budget "reconciliation" bill. Those additional cuts were outlined in a Presidenal speech on Sept. 24.
The Labor/hhs/Education bill, as the measure is commonly known, is currently $4-billion larger than the Administration's latest request.
The vote on the bill was close enough--249 to 168--to prompt comments from some observers that a Presidential veto, which Mr. Reagan has promised several times, could succeed.
To override a veto, two-thirds of House members would have to vote against the President.
"The bill's over budget. It's excessive, and the President will surely consider it unacceptable," said Robert H. Michel of Illinois, the minority leader.
President Reagan, at a press conference last week, promised to veto any spending bills that would "bust the budget."
To achieve the cuts without a veto, members of the Republican-controlled Senate may offer amendments when the bill goes to the Senate floor later this month.