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Congress Sets Education Funding at $17.6 Billion

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Washington--Not willing to risk a Presidential veto of a huge catchall spending bill and seeking to make good on a political vow to pass their own appropriations bill for the second straight year, key congressional leaders pushed through a weary 98th Congress, a record $17.6 billion in fiscal 1985 Education Department funding last week--not as part of the continuing resolution but in the $101-billion bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.

This is the same bill that would have been included in the continuing resolution which the Congress, set to adjourn a week behind schedule last Friday, also passed last Wednesday after haggling over it for the better part of the past two weeks.

According to Congressional aides, it makes no difference whether the department is funded in a regular appropriations bill or in the continuing resolution.

But in these days of major budget battles on Capitol Hill, it is seen as an important political achievement for appropriations committees to pass their own bills, Congressional sources said.

Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker, Republican of Tennessee, said President Reagan will sign the continuing resolution, but that possibility led appropriations subcommittee chairmen--Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Republican of Connecticut, and Representative William H. Natcher, Democrat of Kentucky--to push for passage of the separate appropriations bill for the Education Department and two other agencies, according to Congressional aides. The House passed it by vote of 313-70; the Senate, by voice vote.

A Presidential veto of the $101-billion appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education is not expected.

Funding Levels

The Congress appropriated $15.4 billion for the Education Department last year; the Administration requested $15.5 billion for fiscal 1985.

The appropriations bill includes a House-passed provision barring schools from preventing "the implementation of programs of voluntary prayer." This language has been written into education appropriations bills since fiscal 1981.--jh

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