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Federal File: On the line; Soldiering on

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People calling the office of Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., over the past two weeks were greeted with this message:

"This is George Miller's office. Due to the volume of calls regarding HR 6, we're unable to get your call at this time. Mr. Miller supports HR 6 and regrets any misunderstanding regarding its effect on home-schoolers. He will be happy to support changes to HR 6 that will reaffirm that home-schooling rights are protected, while maintaining the integrity of other provisions of the act.''

As the House last week prepared to debate HR 6, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, members of the House Education and Labor Committee were caught in a full-court press by home-schoolers over a provision, sponsored by Mr. Miller, that would require school districts to certify by 1998 that teachers in certain disciplines are certified to teach in their subjects.

Home-schoolers feared that the provision would cover those in their ranks considered to be under the jurisdiction of their local school districts.

Mr. Miller and others say that that is not the intent of the provision. However, it was struck by an amendment offered on the floor.

The home-schoolers virtually shut down several offices at times over the past two weeks by lodging as many as 80 calls an hour to one office, or by camping out in offices. They made a run on copies of the 1,000-page legislation, wiping out the House Document Room's supply of 1,500 copies.

The word apparently spread through the 700 Club television show and several talk radio programs.

For Congressional aides, the disruption came at a critical time--when they were preparing for floor consideration of HR 6 and a House-Senate conference on the proposed "goals 2000: educate America act.''

Despite rumors that deteriorating health would force Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky., to resign last week, an aide said Mr. Natcher was back at work and ready to maintain his 41-year record of never missing a floor vote.

The aide said last week that Mr. Natcher was not "actively'' considering resigning his seat or his position as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The 84-year-old was released last week from Bethesda Naval Hospital, after reportedly suffering from heart problems.

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