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Talks Continue on Bill Needed To Reverse Budget Cuts

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Washington--Negotiations continued last week on deficit-reduction legislation needed to reverse automatic cuts that could cost education programs $1 billion.

Further action on budget legislation is likely this week, observers and Congressional sources said.

In a Nov. 2 statement, President Bush threatened to veto the budget-reconciliation bill now in the works and stick with the $16 billion in "sequestered" cuts forced last month under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction law. He called for a bill that would cut the projected 1990 deficit by $14 billion without new taxes, accounting gimmicks, or extraneous provisions.

Education lobbyists expressed concern last week that the latest round of budget-cutting efforts will end up negating the substantial gains won for education this year through the regular funding process.

"It's very discouraging," said Susan Frost, executive director of the Com4mittee for Education Funding. "We shouldn't throw in the towel before it needs to be thrown, but there's a temptation every time we hear the White House talk about how they can live with sequestration.''

Education lobbyists organized a telephone campaign last week in which the Washington-based groups represented by c.e.f. called key Congressional offices on Monday and Tuesday, while state-based affiliates manned the phones later in the week. The lobbyists also sent some 18,000 letters from 33 organizations to Capitol Hill.

The Congress appeared headed last week for consideration of a "clean" reconciliation bill, detaching several issues that had been included in the House version of the deficit-reduction package.

Provisions repealing the so-called Section 89 rules barring discrimination in employee-benefit plans, for example, were attached to legislation raising the federal debt ceiling.

In addition, lawmakers agreed to address repeal or modification of controversial Medicare coverage for catastrophic health costs in a separate measure.

Similarly, conferees began meeting last week on competing child-care proposals, which also had been included in the House bill but now apparently will be considered separately. (See story, page 1.)

Also awaiting resolution is the fate of the 1990 appropriations bill for the departments of labor, health and human services, and education. President Bush vetoed the measure because he opposed provisions that would have permitted federal funding of abortions for victims of rape and incest. (See Education Week, Nov. 1, 1989.)

Representative William H. Natcher, the Kentucky Democrat who is chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees funding for those departments, has introduced a bill identical to the vetoed measure except for the abortion language. Congressional leaders were still ponel10ldering last week over how to proceed.

If that bill and several other as-yet-unapproved appropriations bills are not enacted, the Congress must also act by Wednesday to extend the temporary funding measure that has allowed the agencies to continue operations since the beginning of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.

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