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1990 Spending Bill for Education Is Sent Into Legislative Limbo

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Washington--The House refused last week to override President Bush's Oct. 21 veto of the 1990 appropriations bill that includes funding for education programs, sending it into legislative limbo.

Mr. Bush vetoed the bill because it would have allowed federal funding of abortions for victims of rape and incest--a provision anti-abortion House members had kept out of appropriations bills for almost a decade.

Last week, the House voted 231 to 191 to override Mr. Bush's veto, 51 votes short of the required two-thirds majority.

The vetoed bill, HR 2990, is technically dead. Lawmakers can pass a new appropriations bill or attach the funding provisions to another spending measure.

Whatever the measure's form, Congressional leaders must decide whether to draft new abortion language or try again, possibly by adding the funding bill to crucial legislation such as a continuing resolution needed to fund the government until regular appropriations measures are enacted.

The Congress approved this year's second continuing resolution last week, extending the stopgap funding until Nov. 15.

Most appropriations bills are nearing the finish line, but the Congress must also approve a "reconciliation" bill to complete action on the budget and reverse automatic cuts made Oct. 16 under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction law. (See4Education Week, Oct. 25, 1989.)

Susan Frost, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, said last week that the cuts--which sliced about $1 billion from the Education Department--are more of a threat than the abortion dispute.

The Administration could decide they prefer the automatic cuts to the eventual reconciliation agreement, she said, and veto either that bill or separate legislation that would be needed to repeal the cuts.

In 1987, the last time automatic cuts were invoked and repealed, she noted, the move came after a "budget summit" between the Administration and Congressional leaders.

"I'm not seeing that everything is great between the White House and Congress these days," she said. "The cuts could be permanent."

"Is it an 80 percent chance? No," Ms. Frost said. "Is it a real possibility? Yes."

Negotiations on the reconciliation bill began last week, but are expected to be lengthy.

The Senate passed a bill containing only tax and legislative changes needed to meet deficit targets. But the House reconciliation bill includes a potpourri of other measures--most notably two competing child-care proposals and a cut in the capital-gains tax sought by Mr. Bush.

It was unclear last week whether any of those measures would remain in the reconciliation bill, and how they would be considered if they did not stay in the bill.

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