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House Backs Bill To Slash $1.7 Billion In Education Spending

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The House last week approved a rescissions bill that would lop $1.7 billion from federal education programs and cripple AmeriCorps, the most prominent part of President Clinton's national-service initiative.

The bill, a source of intense partisan battles over the past several weeks, would cancel $17.1 billion in funds that had been appropriated for the current fiscal year.

A Republican-sponsored amendment added $206 million in proposed cuts to the AmeriCorps program, hiking total rescissions for the national-service program to $416 million--over two-thirds of its $575 million budget for fiscal 1995.

The cut was used to restore $206 million for construction projects under the Veterans Affairs Department.

Democrats supported the amendment, which passed 382 to 23, but charged that Republicans forced them to choose between veterans and the AmeriCorps.

"This cut kills AmeriCorps," said Eli Segal, the chief executive officer of the Corporation for National Service, which runs AmeriCorps.

If the cuts were enacted, he added, 16,000 corps members would be sent home within a few months.

Republicans said the bill is a down payment on $1.2 trillion in cuts needed to balance the federal budget by 2002.

Democrats said it would create a "honey pot" that would be used to finance G.O.P. tax breaks.

"We can hear this bleeding-heart stuff from here to eternity, but it will not bring economic sanity to this country," Rep. Robert L. Livingston, R-La., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said during floor debate.

Rep. David E. Bonior, D-Mich., countered, "Say no to attacking children and the elderly and say no to tax subsidies for the wealthy."

Education Amendments

The measure passed on a 227-to-200 vote and now goes to the Senate, which has not indicated when it might be considered there.

Few amendments were adopted, in part because of strict rules governing debate that were set by the Republican leadership.

But Rep. John Edward Porter, R-Ill., the chairman of the appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, sponsored an amendment that restored $161 million proposed cuts to Education Department programs.

The provision deleted proposed cuts of $108 million from Tech Prep programs, $6 million from Arts in Education programs, $18 million from literacy programs, and $28.8 million from education programs for homeless youths.

Another amendment, by Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., restored $10 million in Safe and Drug-Free Schools funds--which were to be entirely eliminated under the bill--for the Drug Abuse and Resistance Education program.

The amendments were easily passed on voice votes.

They were a mixed blessing for education advocates, however, because the deletions were offset by increased cuts in other education programs.

For example, the bill would cut $100 million from Eisenhower Professional Development grants, up from $60 million, and Title I cuts were raised $35.3 million to $140 million.

"It's not something we support or do not support," Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said. "We do not want to get in the situation of picking one over the other."

Awaiting Senate Action

Mr. Riley's comments came after he testified last week before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The hearing was to focus on fiscal 1996 spending, but the Secretary also urged committee members to reconsider the House cuts. (See story, page 27.)

Edward R. Kealy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, is also hoping for better results in the Senate. "The momentum to cut will change when they realize this is about the future for schools and college students," he said.

The G.O.P. leadership eliminated a controversial abortion amendment passed by the House Appropriations Committee prior to floor debate last week after protests from moderate Republicans.

The amendment would have reversed current federal policy and made it optional for states to use Medicaid funds to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, and threats to a mother's health.

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