July 14, 2010

Education Funding Still Getting Caught Up in War Funding?

War Supplemental Stalls in the Senate
By Brian Friel, CQ Staff

The must-pass supplemental appropriations bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is stuck in a logjam that could delay action on the Senate floor for a few weeks, a key Senate Democrat said.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education , said Democrats are trying to find a set of offsets for $10 billion in funding to avert teacher layoffs across the country after the White House issued a veto threat over a House-passed version that cuts money from one of President Obama’s signature education programs to pay for the teacher funding.

“Maybe there are some different offsets or something we can use,” Harkin said. “Look, nothing’s going to happen this week. Nothing’s going to happen next week. So we’ve got time to work on it.”

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are stepping up calls for quick action on the fiscal 2010 supplemental bill after a meeting Tuesday with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

“He told us clearly today that it has to be done by the end of the month or he won’t be able to pay the troops,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “We need to figure a way to get the funding for the troops in the field, and we need to do it as soon as possible.”

The Senate passed a version of the supplemental in May (HR 4899) that included $58.8 billion for the wars, disaster relief and veterans. The House on July 1 added $22 billion for various domestic programs, including $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs in local school districts.

House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., included a cut of several hundred million dollars to Obama’s “Race to the Top” education initiative to offset the added domestic costs and placate deficit concerns among House Democrats. Obama issued a veto threat in opposition to the proposed cuts in his education initiative.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said, “We have some issues with the House on the supplemental. I don’t personally, but issues in terms of finding 60 votes in the Senate.”

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said he would not support the domestic funding that the House added on. “We’d like to fund the troops and not have a bunch of add-ons that don’t have the emergency status that these kinds of bills ordinarily require.”

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said the teacher funding issue did not come up at a White House meeting with President Obama and Senate Democratic leaders Tuesday morning. But Harkin said he’ll fight to keep the teacher funding in the bill.

“It seems to me the Republicans are drawing a line and saying no money for teachers,” Harkin said. “That’s an interesting position to take.”
Source: CQ Today Online News

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Why do we need to tie funding to save teacher jobs to funding for war? And why shouldn't we take money from the flawed "Race to the Top" to retain teacher jobs? These are some of the questions we need to be asking on this issue. Feel free to contact Senator Harking on this issue...


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