Federal File: Propaganda; Lodging a protest

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Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley recently sent Education Department employees a 23-page brochure on the Clinton Administration's health-care proposal and a letter offering to answer questions.

That angered Rep. Bill Archer, R-Tex., who said in a letter to Mr. Riley that he is "deeply concerned about the propriety of federal employees being lobbied ... by a Cabinet official,'' and asked who paid for the brochures.

Mr. Riley told Mr. Archer that he routinely informs employees about employment policies that may affect them. The department's legal counsel approved his action, he said.

Funding for the mailing came from the agency's "salaries and expenses'' account.

House members have already approved a bipartisan compromise weakening "opportunity to learn'' standards in pending legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

But even language urging states to use the standards for school services as a diagnostic tool is apparently too strong for some governors.

In a letter to President Clinton last week, Gov. Carroll A. Campbell of South Carolina, the chairman of the National Governors' Association, urged removal of the "fuzzy'' language.

The bill would not require opportunity standards. But Mr. Campbell said it "directly ties inputs ... to eligibility for participation in Chapter 1.''

He said such standards "should be defined in the clearly voluntary Goals 2000 bill,'' which would require states to set them to participate in a new grant program.

Rep. William H. Natcher, the grandfatherly Kentucky Democrat who had cast 18,401 consecutive votes on the House floor, finally missed one last week, ending a streak that lasted more than 40 years.

His colleagues had delayed consideration of the E.S.E.A. bill while he received treatment for a heart ailment. But the 84-year-old was unable to leave the hospital, and work continued without him.

The Speaker of the House, Rep. Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash., said Mr. Natcher is discussing with his doctors whether he can return.

It's likely Mr. Natcher will have to step down from his chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, and members are already jockeying for the post.

Vol. 13, Issue 24

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