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Bush Signs Spending Bill With $28.3 Billion for E.D.

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WASHINGTON--President Bush last week signed a $241 billion social-services spending bill for fiscal 1993 that includes $28.3 billion for Education Department programs, nearly $1 billion more than last year.

The President signed the bill, HR 5677, after Congress approved the conference agreement to the bill on Oct. 2. The House backed the bill by a vote of 363 to 47, while the Senate approved it on a voice vote.

In addition to funding education programs, the bill provides spending for health and labor programs.

In a conference committee, House and Senate conferees earlier had modified the bill in two ways in order to avoid a threatened veto by Mr. Bush. While dropping language that would have allowed federal funding of abortions for poor women who survived rape or incest, conferees agreed to impose a 0.8 percent across-the-board cut to bring the bill's discretionary-spending figure below Mr. Bush's request.

The $62.1 billion included in HR 5677 for discretionary programs in the fiscal year that started Oct. 1 is 2.8 percent greater than the amount allocated for fiscal 1992, or less than the rate of inflation. But mandatory spending, for such big-ticket programs as Medicaid, Social Security, and Guaranteed Student Loans, increased by 13 percent, to $179 billion.

Concerns Over Constraints

As in past years, lawmakers expressed their discomfort with the rising cost of entitlement programs and the inability of Congress to use dollars targeted for defense or international programs for domestic needs.

For fiscal 1994, Congress will operate with only a single budget cap, but even then appropriators are not expected to have much more money to work with.

Other than expressions of concern over budget constraints, debate on the conference agreement was relatively low key.

But Rep. Carl D. Pursell of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations subcommittee on education, took Congress to task for not authorizing any of President Bush's education program.

"It is unfortunate ... that we could not seriously debate a lot of the education programs that the Administration had proposed that were obviously good policies,'' said Mr. Pursell, who is not seeking re-election.

The retiring legislator also warned his colleagues to "watch very carefully the mandates that the special interests, particularly the [National Education Association], are trying to force on local education.''

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