News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Lee P roposed for Justice Post

President Clinton has announced he will nominate Bill Lann Lee, a Los Angeles-based lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, to head the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.

The post of assistant attorney general for civil rights has been vacant since January, when Deval L. Patrick left the department to return to the private sector.

The civil rights division oversees some 500 school desegregation cases and, under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, must approve voting changes in school districts in areas with a history of discrimination in elections.

Mr. Lee, the son of Chinese immigrants, would be the first Asian-American to hold the department's top civil rights post.

As Western regional counsel for the New York City-based legal-defense fund, Mr. Lee has been active in school desegregation and employment-discrimination cases.

Several conservative groups, including the Washington-based Institute for Justice and Empower America, have called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to closely scrutinize Mr. Lee's record and question his views on affirmative action and other civil rights issues.

Education Gets Larger Funding Share

Education appropriators have received a slightly larger funding pie from which to carve out their allocations for fiscal 1998, but money added to this year's budget may make that increase seem smaller.

The Senate Appropriations Committee announced last week that its Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee will have $79.3 billion to divvy up when writing its spending bill.

The House Appropriations Committee allocated nearly $79.6 billion to its Labor, HHS, and Education Subcommittee on June 13. That amount represents a slight boost from the subcommittee's fiscal 1997 appropriation of $79 billion to fund programs for the three agencies.

The increase had been termed significant, but recent additions to the 1997 budget will make it seem less so.

Thanks to supplemental appropriations attached to the disaster-relief act that President Clinton signed this month, education received an extra $101 million for Title I programs for the current fiscal year and $650,000 in new higher education funds.

Congress added the extra Title I money to buffer states from funding losses related to a change in federal policy. ("News in Brief: A Washington Roundup," June 18, 1997.)

House appropriators do not plan to complete the committee's education spending bill until after the July 4 congressional recess.

This year's budget process is further behind schedule than in past years because White House and congressional budgeters spent the first few months hashing out a five-year budget blueprint. ("Clinton-Hill Accord Would Hike Ed. Funding," May 14, 1997.)

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