Summer Youth Programs and Jobs Stripped From Stimulus Package
WASHINGTON--Bowing to pressure from Republicans, the White House and Congressional Democrats last week ditched President Clinton's plan to spend billions of dollars this summer on education and youth-related programs as part of an economic-stimulus package.
Congress passed the supplemental appropriation bill, HR 1335, after stripping it of everything except $4 billion to extend unemployment benefits.
The original $16.3 billion bill, which Mr. Clinton claimed would spur the economy, included $1 billion to create 700,000 summer jobs for teenagers, $1 billion to extend the Chapter 1 and Head Start programs into the summer, $300 million for childhood immunizations, $235 million for school districts that will see their Chapter 1 allocations reduced during the 1993-94 school year due to the switch to 1990 Census data, and $15 million for a national community-service program this summer. Most of the money for the programs would have been raised by adding to the federal debt.
Congressional staff members last week said they do not expect an attempt will be made to revive those proposals in separate legislation.
The rejection of the President's plan was especially worrisome to education lobbyists because it included $1.86 billion to help alleviate a Pell Grant shortfall that has accumulated over the years.
Lobbyists predicted that no matter how the Pell Grant shortfall is remedied--whether by chipping away at it over several years or by eliminating it entirely in the fiscal 1994 appropriations bill--discretionary education spending will be harmed for years to come.
"I'm not sure exactly how we're going to cope with this,'' said Richard A. Kruse, the director of governmental relations for the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the president of the Committee for Education Funding. "We're still licking our wounds at this moment.''
Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said in a statement that while department officials will continue to study how to alleviate the shortfall, "we need Congress to become a partner in the pursuit.''
"Otherwise, other steps may have to be taken,'' he said without elaboration.
A Long Process
Final approval of the stripped-down version of HR 1335--a voice vote secured passage in the Senate, and the House followed with a vote of 301 to 114--came after weeks of uncertainty over its fate.
The House passed the original bill in March, but a filibuster by all Senate Republicans, joined at first by two Democrats but in the end by only one, brought it to a halt.
Senate Democrats failed four times to muster the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster.
On April 21, after the fourth failure to lift the siege, Sen. George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, the majority leader, and Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., the minority leader, traded compromise proposals. But each was rejected.
Mr. Mitchell's offer followed an unsuccessful attempt by Mr. Clinton earlier in the week to attract some Republican votes by trimming the price of the bill by $4 billion.
Mr. Mitchell noted that Congress may revisit some of the original elements of the President's bill.
"I am sure we will have an opportunity in the weeks and months ahead to come to develop these various programs because we are going to be able to point to the deficiencies that exist in our economic and social fabric which these programs would have addressed, and the difference these programs would have made in the lives of people all across this country, in community after community,'' Mr. Mitchell said.
An aide to Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky., who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, said any reconsideration of the plan's elements is doubtful.
"I don't believe there's going to be another bill. What's going to change?'' the aide said. "Right now, I think people just want to put this thing behind them.''
"For the summer stuff, unless we get something to go through instantaneously, it's not going to matter,'' he added. "It's almost May.''