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White House Prepares To Celebrate Service-Bill Victory

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WASHINGTON--The White House is making plans for a ceremony expected later this month to mark President Clinton's signing of his national-service bill.

The conference committee's version of the bill was scheduled to come to the Senate floor this week, and approval is all but guaranteed.

The "national and community service trust act of 1993,'' HR 2010, is one of the hallmarks of Mr. Clinton's domestic agenda.

The President re-emphasized his interest in community service last week with a visit to a forum for participants in the Administration's "Summer of Service'' program. The initiative was a trial run for the larger national program. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)

During the forum at the University of Maryland in College Park, Mr. Clinton listened as the young service workers described their experiences and asked how the Administration could support their activities.

"If every American did what you did, we could revolutionize our country,'' Mr. Clinton told them. "There is no problem we could not solve, no future we could not have.''

No Filibuster

Administration officials could feel confident, meanwhile, that the President's service bill was headed for final passage.

The Senate early last month approved its version, S 919, by a vote of 58 to 41. It overcame a threatened Republican filibuster by scaling back the scope of the bill.

Senate Republicans agreed to bring the conference report to the floor for a final vote without the threat of a filibuster.

"There are no outstanding issues that will derail it,'' said a spokeswoman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee and a chief sponsor of the legislation.

The House passed its version of the bill in late July by a vote of 275 to 152. It approved the conference report just before the August recess by the same vote. (See Education Week, Aug. 4, 1993.)

Although the House conferees accepted the scaled-back version of the program approved by the Senate, they could not pick up additional G.O.P. votes. Several Republicans said the program was still too expensive.

"We are looking at spending $300 million in fiscal year 1994, $500 million in fiscal year 1995, and $700 million in fiscal year 1996 on a brand-new program,'' said Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y. "At the same time, we continue to starve proven student-aid programs that help millions of students gain access'' to higher education.

Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., the ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, noted that the spending called for in the legislation could support 120,000 more Pell Grants or 500,000 more work-study positions.

But the committee's chairman, Rep. Willam D. Ford, D-Mich., said the legislation's funding levels would "give this landmark initiative time to get on its feet and provide a fair period for evaluation.''

The original version of HR 2010 would have authorized $389 million for fiscal 1994, as requested by President Clinton, and increased amounts thereafter to continue expanding the program. If Congress appropriated the amount authorized, it would have provided for 25,000 participants in the first year, with as many as 150,000 annually by the fifth year.

'Three Years To Make the Case'

The new authorization levels would provide for about 20,000 participants in the first year.

"In three years it has to make its case, and if it does, we're confident there will be more money,'' an aide to Mr. Ford said.

Although participant counts are much smaller than the President originally envisioned, Mr. Clinton said at last week's forum that he hoped national and community service would "become a permanent part of American life.'' He also said he would suggest to Congress that the summer program, which was originally thought of as a one-time demonstration, be repeated.

Among other provisions, the conference report calls for participants to receive a $7,400 subsistence wage while engaging in service and a $4,725 stipend for each year of service completed. The stipend could be applied to a student-loan debt or to tuition for future postsecondary education or training.

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