Fate of Reagan Legislative Agenda Said Uncertain

By James Hertling — November 14, 1984 4 min read
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While agreeing that President Reagan’s sweeping re-election victory illustrated his broad popularity, Democrats and Republicans disagreed last week on whether the landslide win over Walter F. Mondale constitutes a mandate for the Administration’s programs and whether it will help push Mr. Reagan’s legislative agenda through the Congress.

The Democrats gained two seats in the Senate, which the gop now controls, 53 to 47. The Republicans gained about 15 seats in the House. But they had said they needed to pick up about 25 seats in order to give the President a “working majority” there.

“I don’t think people should expect too many [legislative] victories” in the Congress for President Reagan, House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel, Republican of Illinois, said Wednesday.

Outlook For Education

In post-election statements, the President and his top aides said that cutting domestic spending would receive high priority. Their first substantive budget meetings reportedly were to be held early this week.

Nonetheless, one Republican Senate aide said, “Education isn’t going to lose a lot.” Too many senators, the aide added, are publicly committed to support for education and “will protect it from any major reductions.”

The resignation of Education Secretary Terrel H. Bell is not considered likely to have a major impact on the Education Department’s budget, according to a highly placed official of the department. Most agencies’ budgets, he explained, “are going to be clearly made in the White House ... no matter who is sitting in the Secretary’s chair.”

Senator Paul Laxalt, Republican of Nevada and chairman of the President’s campaign committee, noted, “I think he’s going to be very determined to push that social agenda"--including sanctioned prayer in public schools and tuition tax credits.

But the Republicans’ failure to gain a conservative “ideological mandate” in the House--as Representative Vin Weber, a conservative Republican from Minnesota, put it--may prevent passage of such measures, Congressional sources agreed.

Key Senate Races

In some races that attracted special attention from educators, Representative Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois, won election to the Senate, defeating the three-term incumbent, Charles H. Percy. Three Democrats who had championed education, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Gov. James B. Hunt of North Carolina, and William F. Winter of Mississippi were defeated in their Senate races. (See Education Week, Oct. 31, 1984.)

Mr. Doggett was defeated re6soundingly by Representative Phil Gramm; Governor Hunt was defeated by the incumbent, Jesse A. Helms; and Mr. Winter, also by an incumbent, Thad Cochran.

Two-term Senator Walter D. Huddleston, Democrat of Kentucky, was upset by A. Mitchell (Mitch) McConnell Jr., whose margin of victory was less than a percentage point. Senator Huddleston, co-author of legislation this year to pay for school asbestos-removal programs, has requested a recount.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities, Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, was re-elected overwhelmingly over the Republican challenger, Barbara Leonard.

Representative Simon, who was chairman of the House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education and author of several major education bills, reportedly will seek the Democratic seat on the Labor and Human Resources Committee vacated by the retirement of Jennings Randolph of West Virginia. By doing so, he would retain his legislative involvement in education issues.

However, two other newly elected Democratic Senators are also said to be interested in a seat on the committee. They are Gov. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller 4th of West Virginia and Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee. Overall, Republican and Democratic aides agreed, the election results will have little impact on the committee.

In the House, Representative Ike F. Andrews, Democrat of North Carolina, was the only casualty on the 19-member House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education. He was defeated by William Cobey Jr.

Of the new House members, nine are from the South, according to a list compiled by the National Conservative Political Action Committee.

Three Republican challengers in North Carolina and three in Texas, benefiting from wide Reagan margins in those states, ousted Democratic incumbents. A fourth Republican in Texas, Larry Combest, captured an open seat.

In Indiana, Representative Frank McCloskey, a Democrat, was not helped by the $6 million recently authorized for a Center for Educational Excellence at Indiana University in Bloomington. Representative McCloskey, a key supporter of the federal funds, was defeated by a Republican challenger, Rick McIntyre.

A Reagan Mandate?

Republicans last week cited President Reagan’s wide margin of victory as an endorsement of his policies.

But Democrats responded that since Republicans did not make major gains in the Congress, voters affirmed only the President’s personal popularity, not his conservative agenda.

The President’s chief of staff, James A. Baker, while claiming a mandate from the voters, predicted, “It’s going to be very difficult to push many of the things the President wants to push through the Congress.”

The speaker of the House, Representative Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill, Democrat of Massachusetts, asserted that “I don’t think there’s any mandate out there whatsoever” but said he would be fair to the Administration’s initiatives.

And Senator Gary Hart, Democrat of Colorado and a contender for the Democratic Presidential nomination, claimed that the President’s failure to cite specific plans for his second term would hinder his effectiveness in lobbying the legislators. “He cannot go to the Congress with any blueprint for this nation’s future,” Senator Hart said.

A version of this article appeared in the November 14, 1984 edition of Education Week as Fate of Reagan Legislative Agenda Said Uncertain


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