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D.C. Appropriations Bill Passes After Lawmakers Drop Voucher Language

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Washington

Low-income students in the District of Columbia will not receive tuition vouchers under the spending plan for the city that President Clinton was expected to sign late last week.

Facing a near-certain veto from Mr. Clinton, the House and Senate stripped the spending bill of a $7 million provision that would have given vouchers to about 2,000 poor students to help them attend the private, parochial, or public schools of their choice. ("House Passes D.C. Voucher Bill 203-202; Veto Threatened," Oct. 15, 1997.)

The two chambers passed their annual spending bills shortly before adjourning last week. House and Senate leaders agreed to a final $4.2 billion Washington appropriations measure.

The Senate, though, passed the voucher plan as a separate measure, and the House also plans to take up the measure when it returns to Washington in January. The House narrowly passed an earlier version of the District of Columbia appropriations bill, which included the vouchers, by a 203-202 vote.

In the Senate, the measure faced strong opposition from Democrats, but passed by voice vote. The Senate had planned to include the measure in such a way that Mr. Clinton could remove it by a line-item veto. But senators agreed to pull the language out of the bill after the White House expressed concerns that, should the line-item-veto power be declared unconstitutional, the voucher provision could be reinstated, said John Raffetto, a spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"We all want to help the children of the District of Columbia get a good education," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., a leader of the anti-voucher forces. But "public funds should be used for public schools," he said, "not to pay for a small number of students to attend private and religious schools."

Push To Pass

Because the fiscal year began Oct. 1 and a temporary spending measure was set to expire, members of Congress were eager last week to finish their final spending bills and adjourn for the year.

The District of Columbia voucher bill, S 1502, would have provided scholarships of up to $3,200 each. Republican supporters of the proposal said it would help needy Washington students get a better education while reform continues in the capital's school system.

In separate voucher action this month, the House rejected a measure that would have allowed states and districts to use an existing federal block grant to pay for vouchers for poor children. ("Voucher Bill Fails on Bipartisan Vote in House," Nov. 12, 1997.)

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