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Line-Item-Veto Bill Headed for Adoption

A bill that would give the president authority to cancel individual items from the spending and tax bills that cross his desk each year was cleared by Congress last week. President Clinton was expected to sign it.

The Senate voted 69-31 in favor of the bill after Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., backed off from his threat to filibuster it on the grounds that it would transfer too much power from the legislative to the executive branch. The House later approved it 232-177.

In addition to being able to cancel line-item spending, the president would be able to eliminate tax breaks targeted to small numbers of individuals and new entitlements. Congress would have 30 days to override line-item vetoes.

Supporters hope the new power would help cut wasteful spending.

However, the definition of wasteful "pork" is often a matter of opinion. For example, many critics would put provisions guaranteeing grants or research contracts to specific higher education institutions in that category.

Education lobbyists note that the bill would allow a president to eliminate an entire program.

"We're definitely concerned about it," said Joel Packer, a lobbyist for the National Education Association. "In the past, even under the Clinton administration, some programs have been targeted for elimination that have been restored by Congress."

For example, he said, Mr. Clinton has proposed eliminating two small programs that help migrant workers go to college or earn high school equivalency diplomas, but Congress has not agreed.

The law would not go into effect until Jan. 1, in part because Republicans are reluctant to give President Clinton the new power before the November elections.

Skills Standards Hearings

The National Skills Standards Board is scheduled to begin a series of public hearings next week.

The board, created by Congress in 1994 to develop occupational benchmarks for job training and vocational education, is seeking public input on its mission.

The hearings are set for April 9 in Kansas City, Mo.; April 11 in Phoenix, and April 15 in Miami. For more information, call (202) 254-8628.

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