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Federal File: Celebration; Teamwork

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It took a while, but Education Department officials and other proponents of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act basked in the glow of a formal White House ceremony last week.

Under a massive white tent on the south lawn, more than 1,000 guests turned out to hear President Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Gore, Tipper Gore, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, and Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich tout the education-reform program, which was enacted in late March.

The ceremony featured the Marine Corps Band, a local elementary school choir called the Fabulous Flying Fingers singing--and interpreting in sign language--a song about love, and testimonials about each of the eight national education goals codified in the law.

"I can barely contain myself,'' the President said midway through his speech. "Here you are clapping for things that matter.''

The event also showcased a new Goals 2000 logo, a depiction of a book opening to a sun and stars.

A chummy news release recently issued by Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and its ranking Republican, Rep. Joseph M. McDade of Pennsylvania, was only one page long, but it spoke volumes.

"Obey-McDade Offer 602(b) Recommendation'' topped the page. Every quote in the release was attributed to both men.

What makes that unusual is that the party in power has typically held closed-door sessions to divvy up the budget, excluding the minority. But observers said the G.O.P. had unprecedented involvement in crafting this year's allocations for the appropriations panel's 13 subcommittees.

They termed the news release a refreshing surprise.

Aides and lobbyists speculated that this was only the first of many changes to come under the chairmanship of Mr. Obey, who assumed the post this spring after the death of Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky.

Mr. Obey's willingness to work with the minority comes after several recent news articles have noted his fierce partisanship and fiery rhetoric. Those articles predicted a change in the committee's operations from the genteel, bipartisan manner in which Mr. Natcher presided.--MARK PITSCH & LYNN SCHNAIBERG

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