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Federal File: Compromising; Backing down?; Pell ill

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President Clinton has said he would sign a spending-cuts bill that would slash more than $400 million in current-year spending from the Education Department, but he pledged to veto legislation that proposes more severe cuts.

In an April 7 speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Mr. Clinton said a $16 billion spending-cuts bill passed by the Senate, which proposes $403 million in cuts for education programs, is preferable to a companion bill passed by the House, which includes $1.7 billion in education cuts.

"I will sign the Senate bill if the House and Senate will send it to me," Mr. Clinton said.

The House bill, on the other hand, contains "completely unacceptable cuts in education, child nutrition, the environment, and national service," he said.

Mr. Clinton, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, and Deputy Secretary Madeleine M. Kunin spent part of last week campaigning against the cuts.

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said last week that the House may not consider a constitutional amendment supporting prayer in public schools after all.

Instead, he said, House Republicans could "create a legal framework that allows us to recognize that this is a profoundly religious country, but there is no state church."

Mr. Gingrich made the remarks on the CBS television show "Face the Nation."

He also said he opposed "organized school prayer" or "an official prayer."

Last fall, Mr. Gingrich said the House would consider by July 4 of this year a constitutional amendment protecting prayer in schools. (See Education Week, 11/23/94.)

Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., has been diagnosed with an "early and mild case" of Parkinson's disease, his spokesman, Bill Bryant, confirmed. The disease impairs muscular and motor functions.

Mr. Pell, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities and the lawmaker for which the Pell Grant program is named, has responded well to medication, Mr. Bryant said.

Mr. Pell, 76, was in Africa last week and is expected to maintain his Senate schedule. Mr. Bryant said the senator's medical condition would be "one of many factors" Mr. Pell will consider in deciding whether to seek re-election in 1996.

--Mark Pitsch

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