In an end-run around the Department of Education, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted yesterday to block imposition of new rules for bilingual education in public schools until June 1.
Fearing that the department was about to issue the potentially controversial new rules while Congress was out of town during its campaign recess, the committee put the delaying provisions into the huge stopgap funding resolution for the government that Congress must adopt before Oct. 1.
But the committee, bogged down in a Sun Belt vs. Frost Belt dispute over fuel cost assistance, put off final action on the funding resolution until today.
The House has already approved the resolution, without which the government will run out of money when the current fiscal year ends Tuesday. That is because no major appropriations bills for the new fiscal year have been enacted.
The Senate committee has indicated that it will go along with the House in setting Dec. 15 as the expiration date for the funding resolution, thereby assuring a post-election, lame-duck session to finish the appropriations bills or adopt another stop-gap resolution.
While it voted to authorize interim spending for some domestic agencies at lower levels than the House proposed, the Senate committee also added some new spending items of its own, ranging from $3 million for health services to $174 million for disaster relief loans.
It also compromised its way out of a dispute over pay raises for federal blue collar workers by spreading the increases over the fiscal year rather than scheduling them mainly at the beginning or the end of the year.
On the bilingual education rules, several senators complained that the regulation could be so costly and burdensome that Congress should have a chance to examine them before they took effect. A committee aide said local compliance costs have been estimated at from $200 million to $600 million, with between 1.8 million and 2.8 million children being affected by the rules.