The Senate last week failed for the third time to shut off debate on a spending bill for the District of Columbia that would allow city officials to give federally funded vouchers to parents to pay tuition at private or religious schools. The 53-43 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed. Later in the week, the city's budget--without the voucher plan--was included in the Senate's version of a continuing resolution that would fund several federal agencies for the rest of the fiscal year.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution last week approved a bill that would ban race and gender preferences in federal hiring, contracting and program administration.
The Senate Judiciary Committee continued work last week on a bill that seeks to curb illegal and legal immigration and restrict immigrants' access to certain public benefits.
Several House and Senate committees held hearings over the past several weeks on the welfare-reform bill proposed by the National Governors' Association last month. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala said it lacks safeguards for children.
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing March 7 on a bill that seeks to make English the nation's official language. Some pending bills would specifically abolish federally funded bilingual-education programs, and some observers argue that they all can be interpreted to bar such programs.
The Education Department
Maximum Grant Amounts
The Department of Education has published rules allowing officials to summarily reject applications under competitive grant programs that request more than the maximum award amount if one is stated. A notice in the March 4 Federal Register said that because an applicant with a larger budget can propose a broader project, those not observing limits may have had an unfair advantage. The new rules take effect April 3.