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Bush Administration Is Seeking To Block Congressional Alternative to America

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WASHINGTON--Bush Administration officials have asked Senate Republicans to attempt to block final Congressional approval of an education-reform bill drafted by Democrats as an alternative to the Administration's America 2000 plan, according to aides from both parties.

"They want to avoid having the 'education President' veto an education bill,'' a Democratic Senate aide said.

The Senate passed its version of the Democrat-sponsored legislation, S 2, in February, and the House is expected to consider its version, HR 4323, after the summer recess.

The White House hopes that its allies will be able to use Senate rules to prevent S 2 from being sent to a conference committee to resolve differences with HR 4323 once that measure passes the House, the aides suggested.

The House bill, approved by the Education and Labor Committee in May, would authorize grants to states and school districts to develop and implement local-option reform plans.

Some of the Administration's America 2000 proposals would be "allowable'' activities under the House bill. But the legislation includes no funding specifically targeted for innovative "New American Schools,'' as proposed by Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, and contains no mention of school choice.

The Administration also opposes provisions of HR 4323 dealing with the development of national education standards. The bill would put off authorizing the creation of an assessment system and require the development of "school delivery'' standards that would measure school resources and performance. (See Education Week, May 27, 1992.)
Assessment, Choice Provisions

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During Senate consideration of S 2, a Republican proposal for a school-choice demonstration program that would have allowed parents to use federal funding to send children to private schools was soundly defeated.

S 2 is somewhat closer than the House bill to Mr. Bush's positions, however, in that it includes assessment provisions that follow the recommendations of the National Council on Educational Standards and Testing, which the Administration supports. The bill would also allow states to devote some of their funds to public-school choice programs.

Aides said Republicans expect to lose when they propose amendments to HR 4323 on the House floor. Instead, the White House strategy is to have Republican senators block a motion to move S 2 to a House-Senate conference, which requires unanimous consent.

By objecting to unanimous-consent requests, conservative Republicans were able in 1990 to block action on an omnibus education bill, despite the Administration's support for the bill. Even so, lawmakers met in conference unofficially, and the House passed the resulting compromise bill. But Senate leaders were unable to bring it up for consideration before the 101st Congress expired.

That roadblock can be surmounted with a cloture vote, which requires a two-thirds majority. That is the way Senate sponsors won passage of S 2, and aides predicted the leadership would use that method again if there is time in the hectic final months of the Congressional session.

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