Key members of the House and Senate met with Bush Administration officials last week in an attempt to salvage an omnibus education bill.
The bill contains most of the President's education initiatives, as well as an assortment of Congressional proposals, including new literacy and teacher-training programs.
No firm agreements were reached, Congressional aides said. But, they added, it is likely that lawmakers will reduce the total cost of the bill--now about $925 million--by $100 million.
The aides said it appeared that the Administration might accept a provision allowing federal funding for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards--which its officials have strongly opposed--but only if the grant were subject to competition.
The Administration also objects to a provision that would create an independent panel to monitor progress toward national education goals. That panel would compete with or replace a monitoring committee that has been formed by the Administration and the nation's governors.
The House passed its omnibus bill, HR 5115, in July. But several Republican senators have prevented the Senate from acting on its counterpart legislation. (See Education Week, Oct. 17, 1990.)
According to Congressional aides, the Administration officials said last week they did not orchestrate the stalling tactics, as some Democratic lawmakers have charged. While many supporters of the omnibus bill assume that the White House could persuade Republican senators to lift their "holds," one aide noted, those senators might not accept an agreement that includes funding for the teacher-standards board.
Negotiations on the bill were expected to continue late last week.
The House and Senate last8week approved a civil-rights bill that would make it easier for plaintiffs to prevail in job-discrimination suits, forcing a showdown with President Bush.
Lawmakers amended the bill last week in an attempt to address some of the Administration's concerns. For example, they added language that would ease employers' burden of defending business practices that have a disproportionate adverse impact on minorities and women.
Mr. Bush sent a letter to Capitol Hill indicating that the changes were insufficent and that he would be "compelled to veto" the bill--a prospect that worried some Republicans who face elections in two weeks.
However, the President reportedly reopened negotiations with lawmakers late last week, indicating that he might sign the bill if the Congress approved additional alterations.
The House approved the bill by a vote of 273 to 154, and the Senate by a vote of 62 to 34. Neither chamber mustered a large enough majority to override a veto.