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Despite criticism, Congress commits to educational tax cuts

The White House and Republican congressional leaders settled
negotiations on an education tax break in late May even though some
Democrats — including Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members — are
skeptical of the overall budget agreement, of which it is a part.

The GOP quelled rebellion within its ranks after House Speaker Newt
Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) put a
commitment to education tax cuts in writing. The two leaders pledged to
provide “roughly” $35 billion over five years for postsecondary
education — “including a deduction and a tax credit.”

“We believe this package should be consistent with the objectives
put forward in the Hope scholarship and tuition tax proposals contained
in the administration’s FY 1998 budget to assist middle-class parents,”
the letter stated.

The letter followed a series of critical remarks about President
Bill Clinton’s plan from House leaders such as Rep. Bill Archer
(R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee that will
write much of the tax-cut language.

The letter accompanied the release of detailed documents on the
negotiated agreement and its effects; on domestic programs. The
documents show Clinton and Republican leaders agreed to provide a $300
increase in the maximum Pell Grant next year and to protect programs
such as Goals 2000, educational technology, Head Start and bilingual

But federal programs not on this protected list could face freezes
or cuts over the life of the five-year agreement, based on the overall
budget framework.

Funding for discretionary education, training and social service
programs not protected by the agreement would remain frozen at $43.4
billion a year from 1998 to 2002. Programs that rely on this money
include Title 1 education, college work/study, aid to historically
Black colleges and universities, and scores of job-training and
social-service programs.

Conservative Republicans already are pledging to go after some
unprotected programs such as AmeriCorps, the president’s
national-service program.

Saying that Americorps is “of questionable worth,” Rep. Robert
Livingston (R-La.), who also asserted his right to have final say on
spending levels for many discretionary programs, warned, “As chairman
of the House Appropriations Committee, it’s my job to set specific
spending levels for programs.”

Despite House and Senate passage, the budget agreement also
continues to face opposition from many liberals who criticize
provisions such as capital-gains tax cuts and increases in defense
spending. The plan also falls short in funding key domestic initiatives
such as education and children’s health, they argue.

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members developed their own
alternative budget — proposing full funding for Head Start and Title I
education, plus new funds for job training. The CBC budget also
contained a large increase for TRIO programs that recruit disadvantaged
youth for college.

“The Congressional Black Caucus budget makes no tax cuts until the
federal budget is balanced,” said Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.), senior
Democrat on the House education committee. “Unlike the so-called deal
[between the White House and Republicans], the CBC budget does not seek
a balanced budget on the backs of our nation’s neediest families.”

The CBC budget included a cut in defense spending and closed tax loopholes for many corporations.

“This budget is fair, responsible and balanced,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the caucus chair.

Congress voted down the CBC alternative by a vote of 358 to 72 before approving the White House/GOP budget plan.

Lawmakers also narrowly sidestepped potential obstacles to a final
budget agreement in the Senate as well. Members there turned back a
bipartisan initiative to expand child health care and a plan by Sen.
Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) to spend $5 billion for school
construction and improvements. The White House had first proposed the
school Plan but dropped it during the budget talks.

RELATED ARTICLE: In Tuskegee Experiment’s Wake: Apology, Fellowships and Grants Offered

A Clinton Administration review of bioethics and health-care
research will target students of color and historically Black colleges
and universities.

The White House outlined the initiative at a May 16 ceremony in
which President Bill Clinton formally apologized for the Tuskegee
experiment, a study of African American men with syphilis. The
government withheld a syphilis cure from hundreds of men in the study
that lasted four decades.

“The United States government did something that was wrong —
deeply, profoundly, morally wrong,” the president said. “The people at
Tuskegee diminished the stature of man by abandoning the most basic
ethical precepts.”

The president also apologized to Tuskegee University and physicians who he said were wrongly associated with the experiment.

In making the apology, Clinton also said the government would
provide more postgraduate fellowships to train bioethicists,
“especially among African Americans and other minority groups.” The
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will offer fellowships
beginning in September of 1998.

HHS also will provide Tuskegee with a grant to plan a center for
bioethics in research and health care. The center will serve both as a
museum with insights on the Tuskegee study and as a research forum to
strengthen bioethics training, according to the White House.

The study fueled mistrust of medical institutions, the president
said, and even today many medical studies have little participation
from African Americans. Clinton directed HHS Secretary Donna Shalala to
report within six months on ways to “best involve communities,
especially minority communities, in research and health care.”

Many of the eight living survivors of the Tuskegee study attended
the White House ceremony, along with cabinet secretaries and members of
the Congressional Black Caucus.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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