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Federal File: Presidential positioning

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Phil Gramm, a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, called last week for a reduced federal role in education--a common stance for members of the G.O.P. But the senator from Texas went a step further than most in suggesting that federal involvement in this and other areas has contributed to a moral decline among the nation's citizens.

"Is our crisis an economic crisis or a moral crisis?" he asked in a commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. "In my opinion, it is both. And both have their roots in the explosion of a government that taxes and squanders the fruits of our labor and has replaced individual duties and responsibilities with unearned benefits and entitlements."

Mr. Gramm conceded the connection between big government and morality "is not so obvious." But he said government policies have removed spending decisions from families and placed them in the hands of bureaucrats.

"We must put families first," he said. "Let's begin by eliminating the federal Department of Education and give half the money back to parents in a $500-per-child tax credit so they can invest their own money in their own child's education."

The rest, Mr. Gramm said, should go to school districts to spend as they choose. He also called for parental choice in schools, voluntary prayer in public school, and repealing the Goals 2000: Educate America Act.

Mr. Gramm, who has sought to portray himself as the leading conservative in the crowded field of G.O.P. hopefuls, also appealed to those who fear participation in the United Nations will lead to a "world government." He called for rejection of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and said, "I would never send my sons into combat under U.N. command and I certainly don't want the U.N.'s help in raising them."

Another Republican Presidential candidate, Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., said last week that he will consider bringing to a floor vote President Clinton's nomination of Henry Foster to be the surgeon general.

Mr. Dole, the Senate majority leader, had previously said he would prevent the nomination from reaching the floor. The Labor and Human Resources Committee has held hearings on the nomination, but had not voted as of last week. (See Education Week, 5/10/95.)

Senator Dole's rival, Mr. Gramm, has pledged to conduct a filibuster if the nomination is brought to the floor.

-Mark Pitsch

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