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House Turns Back Pell Proposal

House Turns Back Pell Proposal
By Charles Dervarics

The full House of Representatives took a major step toward approving a 2004 education budget in early July after defeating Democrat-led efforts to increase the top Pell Grant for needy students.

Democratic leaders had sought to increase the Pell maximum from $4,050 to $4,200 next year. To pay for Pell and other increases, advocates had sought approval of a plan to reduce tax cuts for those earning more than $1 million a year. The plan was ruled out of order by a vote of 222 to 199.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., had proposed the plan to demonstrate the connection between tax cut bills and their long-term effects on federal spending. The goal is to “re-establish the linkage between actions taken on the tax cut front and their implications for legislation,” he said.
But Republicans, led by Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, said Congress has done much to increase education spending during the past seven years. Since 1996, he said, the federal education budget has more than doubled, he said.
“This funding is significant and we must be cautious in our funding priorities to ensure that these dollars go to programs most directly improving our children’s education,” said the Ohio lawmaker, who oversees the House education spending panel.
In addition to Pell Grant increases, the Obey plan would have provided more funds for Title I education and special education programs. At a cost of $2.8 billion, it would have paid for the spending by reducing tax cuts from $88,000 to $44,000 for those earning above $1 million.
Similar to its Senate counterpart, the House bill also contains a $10 million increase for historically Black colleges, for $224 million in spending next year. Support for the HBCU graduate program would remain at $53 million. Support for Hispanic-serving colleges and universities would increase by $1.2 million, to $93.5 million, in 2004.
The final vote on the spending bill was 215 to 208, with most Republicans endorsing the plan and most Democrats casting ‘no’ votes.

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