Appropriations Talks Continue

House and Senate Republican appropriations negotiators continued meeting today with their Democratic counterparts and White House staff to try to reach agreement on the FY97 omnibus spending package by the end of this week.

Negotiators split into groups to try to come together at subcommittee levels before putting the entire bill together. The White House Friday submitted a new list of funding requests to restore specific cuts in the appropriations process, and over the weekend sent up another emergency supplemental request to provide $290 million to deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Fran.

Members and staff are now seeking offsets to cover the cost of that package. House Appropriations Chairman Robert Livingston, R-La., remains adamant about not dipping into defense funds to pay for any of the administration's proposed add-backs, but will consider using some defense funds to help pay for the president's $1.1 billion emergency supplemental for counterterrorism efforts, GOP aides said today.

Meanwhile, dozens of House Republicans led by Economic and Educational Opportunities Chairman William Goodling, R-Pa., and Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Calif., sent a letter to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., late last week urging him to restore education funding to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Title VI block grant program, and student aid through Pell Grants and College Work Study. The letter also was signed by House Budget Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio.

Democratic skeptics criticized the GOP signers as election-year converts who previously had condemned the programs as wasteful and bureaucratic. "If they believe what they've been saying, then they're advocating throwing money down a rat hole," a Democratic education aide said, adding, "All these programs have bureaucracy."

Goodling and others defended their request by saying they "do not oppose federal funds for education; we oppose wasteful spending on bureaucracy," and argued the work study program is more cost effective than the president's AmeriCorps program. The request likely will be received well by the White House, which has sought more funding for IDEA and student aid programs.

Separately, Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., organized another letter, sent to Livingston last week, advocating add-backs for the programs mentioned by Goodling, but also for Title I -- the largest federal education program, which provides funding for disadvantaged students. Goodling, Kasich and others did not ask for additional funding for Title I.

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