Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Health and Human Services Bill moves ahead in U.S. Senate

After five days of debate, the Senate passed the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill last night by a vote of 75-19. Both Senators Coleman and Klobuchar voted for the bill. There was a motion to send the bill back to committee to bring the number closer to the president's level to avoid a veto, however it was voted down. Both Senators Coleman and Klobuchar voted against this motion, in order to not reduce the education funding level.

Amendments to the bill include; halting a long-term evaluation of the Upward Bound program until Congress completes its work to renew the Higher Education Act; and a requirement that the Dept. of Education provide college administrators with better guidance on when they may share information about potentially dangerous students.

Another amendment provides $10 million in grants to colleges and universities to prepare schoolteachers in science, mathematics, and foreign languages. This is a small amount in comparison to the $276 million authorized by the America Competes Act for 2008 for preparing schoolteachers.

Spending for all federal student-aid programs would remain flat, with two exceptions; TRIO programs for disadvantaged students would increase spending by 3.6 percent, to $858.2 million; and the Gear Up program, which helps financially needy middle-school students prepare for college, would get an increase of 3.3 percent, to $313.4 million.

The bill now heads to conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions (the House passed their version back in July). After the compromise bill clears both chambers, it will be sent to President Bush who is threatening a veto. It would take a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House to override a veto. Staff tells us that they are hoping to have a conference report out of committee and back to the floor by next week.

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