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Partisan Politics Put Goodling in Tight Spot on E.S.E.A. Vote

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During the Bush Presidency, Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., found himself serving reluctantly as the lead cheerleader for that Administration's education initiatives.

Now, with a Democrat in the White House, the 10-term former educator is in a similarly uncomfortable, albeit different, position.

Instead of carrying water for a President he often disagreed with, observers say, Mr. Goodling--a moderate who is the ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee--is caught between his bipartisan tendencies and the increasingly conservative House G.O.P. leadership.

That was evident, they note, during Republican attempts to kill HR 6, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Mr. Goodling refused to sign the conference report to HR 6 and voted against it. (See story.)

"Watching Representative Goodling, [he] looked really uncomfortable to me," said Patty Sullivan, a senior policy analyst with the National Governors' Association. "That a person who is as committed and as knowledgeable as Congressman Goodling couldn't vote for this bill is outrageous."

Last March, the House Minority Whip, Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., told G.O.P. members that seniority will not secure ranking status on committees next year. The move was seen as a warning from a future House minority leader to moderates such as Mr. Goodling.

The House Republican leadership has also asked ranking members of committees to raise $65,000 each for Republicans seeking to unseat House Democrats.

"There's enormous pressure on people like Bill Goodling," said Michael Edwards, the manager of Congressional relations for the National Education Association. "He has responsibilities to the committee, to education, to his constituents, and to his party. There are a lot of cross-cutting pressures."

A Partisan Session

Mr. Goodling said in an interview that he was prepared to sign the conference report and vote for HR 6 on the floor until the final minutes of the House-Senate conference on the bill.

At that point, he said, a compromise on the Chapter 1 funding formula was struck without his input or that of another moderate, Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Wis.

"Needless to say, [Sept. 30] was one of the low points of my career in the Congress, having to vote against an education bill I worked a year and a half on," Mr. Goodling said.

He said he has not felt pressure from the Republican leadership--other than to raise the $65,000.

"For one who doesn't take PAC money, that's been difficult," Mr. Goodling said.

Because he faces no campaign opponent this year, he said, he has asked potential donors to give their money to the party.

The G.O.P. conference chairman, Rep. Dick Armey, R-Tex., who is also a member of the education committee, denied that the leadership had pressured Mr. Goodling.

"There is no one person alive who would survive five minutes trying to lean on Bill Goodling on education," Mr. Armey said.

However, almost without exception, lobbyists and Congressional aides say that this session of Congress has been the most partisan they have seen in years, and that education issues are not immune.

Democratic leaders, with one of their kind in the White House for the first time since 1980, asked for Republicans' input on education matters only when their votes were needed, observers said.

"It was a standard rule that you had to sell Goodling [on an idea] when you sold Hawkins," one lobbyist said, referring to Augustus F. Hawkins, a former committee chairman. "That rule is out the window."

At the same time, Republicans want to win back the White House, and working with Congress and the Clinton Administration on domestic initiatives has not been the chosen strategy.

"For education to survive, it has to be bipartisan," said Bruce Hunter, a senior associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. "For Gingrich, it's a political tool. And you get real friends of education like Bill Goodling and Steve Gunderson put in a terrible spot."

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