Republican accusations of altered House documents widened yesterday as Rep. John N. Erlenborn (R-Ill.) pointed to changes in an amendment to an education spending bill that he said increases spending levels beyond what was originally approved.
The amendment grew from 67 to 386 words after it was authorized by the Education and Labor Committee in May and before it was printed in final form. Erlenborn charged that the changes constituted "a travesty," "a revision and extension of a good, bipartisan bill."
Previous accusations of unauthorized alterations have concerned transcripts of congressional hearings. Erlenborn's was the first charge that the text of a bill or amendment had been changed without authorization.
House committee staffs are permitted to alter the wording of amendments for legal and technical reasons, but may not change the legislative intent of the bill.
Majority committee staffer Ivan Swift, acknowledging the changes, said they were well within the limits of the bill's intent.
"Erlenborn said we went further than we should have in a technical amendment," Swift said. "And that's an argument a guy can make when he wants to cut money back out."
Erlenborn discovered the change during a Rules Committee hearing on the bill Tuesday. The Rules Committee sent the bill back to Education and Labor to address his concerns, and yesterday Education and Labor approved the longer amendment on a party-line vote.
The amendment deals with spending authorization for a number of rehabilitation, vocational education, energy assistance and arts programs. As originally written, it authorized spending for programs at levels indicated in the House budget resolution for fiscal 1984.
As finally published in its longer version, the amendment contains that provision, but also includes $1.3 billion in additional money for 10 specific programs.
Swift said that at the hearing at which the original amendment was approved, however, all programs with funding increases in the final amendment were detailed by the amendment's author, Education and Labor Chairman Carl D. Perkins (D-Ky.).
"The point is, Perkins sat there with Erlenborn at his elbow, because he's the ranking Republican, and with everyone having a one-sheet financial summary of these changes, and read them all off, and said, 'This is what we're going to do.' We went in with this little barebones amendment as a vehicle," Swift said, "adding so-and-so for each of these things."
A minority staffer for the committee disagreed with that interpretation, saying, "It's not a technical change, it's a substantial change, and we aren't going to take it."
She also said that the change was "nothing unusual. We the minority staff get snowed all the time."