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Federal File: Stepping down?; Making choices

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Rumours circulated last week that Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and its Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee, would retire this week due to illness.

If he retired as soon as Congress reconvened Feb. 22, Mr. Natcher would keep intact his record of never missing a vote in his House career.

The 84-year-old Mr. Natcher was elected to the House in 1953; he became chairman of the Appropriations Committee last year.

Should Mr. Natcher resign, a struggle could ensue for leadership of the committee.

Rep. Jamie L. Whitten, D-Miss., is the panel's senior member, but Mr. Natcher became chairman when Mr. Whitten quit the post due to his own ill health. Rep. Neal Smith, D-Iowa, is next in line, but Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., has reportedly discussed mounting a challenge for the post.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Obey are the two most senior members on Mr. Natcher's subcommittee as well.

An informal survey by the Heritage Foundation found that many members of Congress send their children to private schools.

About 44.4 percent of senators and 29.5 percent of representatives who responded to the questionnaire send or have sent their children to private schools. Nationally, 9.5 percent of school-age children attend private schools, according to the foundation.

Allyson M. Tucker, the manager of the conservative foundation's Center for Education Policy, notes in a paper describing the study that many of the members who send their children to private schools "have resisted amendments to include provisions to foster choice at the state and local level.''

The lawmakers who have sent their children to private schools include Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.; and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., according to the survey.

It found that 18.2 percent of House Education and Labor Committee members--two Democrats and two Republicans--have sent their children to private schools, as have 50 percent of Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee members, three Democrats and three Republicans.

Not all members of Congress responded to the survey.
--MARK PITSCH

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