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A model committee

House Republicans should look to the panel that sets education policy if they want a model for how to plan ahead, GOP leaders say.

A draft of a Republican vision statement holds up the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee as an example of effective legislative strategy, noting that the panel's leaders withstood tumultuous times to accomplish important business.

Through monthly morning meetings and a couple of full-day brainstorming sessions, Republicans on the committee narrowed their agenda to goals within their reach and worked around roadblocks that popped up, according to the report.

In a memo to GOP members last month, Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, the chairman of the House Republican Conference, said the 66-page document lays out "fundamental operating principles" for the House.

"One of the old techniques was a strong-armed committee chairman buying votes with the creation of new programs," says the eight-page section explaining how the education panel organized itself over the past two years. "This needed to be replaced with strategic planning leading to prioritization of projects and then to the tactics to accomplish our vision for America."

Instead of twisting arms, Rep. Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, the committee chairman, invited the 24 Republican members into a collaborative process, the draft says.

Mr. Goodling and the five subcommittee chairman went to a "team-building seminar" shortly after taking charge of the panel and from then on "doggedly attended monthly strategic planning sessions at the unwelcome hour of 7 a.m.," the paper says.

All of the panel's GOP members participated in two daylong seminars where they shared ideas and eventually whittled a list of 150 objectives to 28 core goals.

Despite the kudos for its planning, the panel fell short in finishing much of its regular business this past year. Its plan to merge more than 100 job training and vocational education programs into three broad block grants died when House members could not find a compromise with their Senate colleagues.

And an attempt to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act passed the House but failed to win Senate approval.

Both issues await Mr. Goodling's committee when the 105th Congress convenes next month.

--DAVID J. HOFF federal@epe.org

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