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Congress Approves Stopgap Measure To Cover Government's Bills for Month

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Washington--The Congress last week overwhelmingly adopted a temporary measure providing funding for the Education Department and other federal agencies until action is taken on a backlog of pending appropriations bills.

Facing the close of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, lawmakers approved a "continuing resolution" maintaining interim funding from Oct. 1 through Oct. 25.

The stopgap measure, which had cleared the House by a vote of 274 to 152, was passed unanimously by the Senate last Thursday.

Under the resolution, funding for each Education Department program will be set at the lower of the two corresponding amounts in the House- or Senate-approved versions of HR 2990, the department's regular appropriations bill for fiscal 1990.

Earlier last week, the Senate passed its version of HR 2990 by a vote of 81 to 19. The bill would provide $23.7 billion for the Education Department in the new fiscal year, as part of a massive, $155.5-billion appropriations package for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

Amendments to the appropriations bill were debated in the Senate the previous week, but a final vote on the measure was delayed un4til last week while Senate leaders thrashed out the details of a plan to to finance an expanded version of President Bush's war on drugs.

Under the compromise formula, the Education Department's anti-drug programs would net $183.5 million more than approved in the appropriations bill, and $215 million more than the fiscal 1989 level.

HR 2990 next will go to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve funding differences between the two chambers. The House-passed measure would provide the department with $118 million more than would the Senate bill.

One major difference concerns the Chapter 1 compensatory-education programs. The Senate called for $500 million less than the $1-billion increase approved by the House.

Conferees also will have to reconcile the Senate's drug-funding package with the House version of the bill, which contains no such funding.

The Senate version of HR 2990 also includes a number of amendments added to the bill in a late-night session the previous week. (See Education Week, Sept. 27, 1989.)

Senator Thomas Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, restored to the bill $5 million in matching funds for the National Board for Professional Teaching standards. The money had been deleted from the bill as a result of procedural action by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina.

Senator Pete Wilson, Republican of California, also amended the measure to require a study of children particpating in the Head Start program who were born to mothers who abused drugs or alcohol.

The Senate also accepted an amendment, sponsored by Senator Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois, to restore $1.8 million to the vista Literacy Corps by cutting funding for Education Department salaries.

In a related development, the Senate late last week was considering an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would allocate an additional $1 billion to education.

Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, proposed to transfer to the education budget money that is expected to be saved under a Bush Administration proposal to withdraw 30,000 troops from Western Europe.

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