Published Online: June 4, 1997


Federal File

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'Radical' Republican

Republican leaders are accustomed to Democrats complaining that GOP budgets don't have enough money for education. But last month they had to silence one of their own.

In debate over the five-year budget outline, Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Calif., proposed shifting $17 billion from the military and into schools. Mr. Riggs, who chairs the Early Childhood, Youth, and Families Subcommittee, wanted the money dedicated to school technology and construction.

"I think that would have been a better expenditure," Mr. Riggs said at a recent hearing. "You could argue that it would be just as important for our nation's defense."

Mr. Riggs contended that his plan would have given the Department of Defense increases to cover inflation. But he offered a pointed explanation of why his leadership cut off his plan from debate.

"It would have been too radical of a notion to allow a Republican to bring that to the floor," Mr. Riggs said the day after the Rules Committee rejected his proposal. Mr. Riggs eventually voted with the majority of his colleagues to approve the five-year budget blueprint when it came up for a final vote on May 22.

Amendment round-up

Meanwhile in the Senate, Republicans thwarted an amendment by one of the chamber's most liberal members to up the ante for education by $20 billion over the next five years. Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., wanted the money to go to Head Start, school construction, and child-nutrition programs.

Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., however, offered a substitute that would raise school funding by $50 million. Unlike Mr. Wellstone's amendment, the GOP plan calls for the money to be spent on vouchers to pay tuition at private schools for victims of violent crimes on public school property.

The Senate adopted his plan, 51-49. If the voucher plan survives a House-Senate conference committee, it still must be approved by appropriators and pass both the House and Senate before the money becomes available.

By then, Democrats likely would have the 40 votes they need to sustain a filibuster against a voucher plan.

Because of Senate rules, Mr. Wellstone's amendment was never put to a vote, and Democrats were not allowed under the chamber's rules to filibuster against the budget resolution, which the Senate approved on May 23.


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