GOP Unveils Education Bill

Republican congressional leaders introduced education legislation yesterday that would permit states to use federal aid for broad purposes, a major change from the government's traditional role of targeting assistance to disadvantaged students.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) unveiled a leadership bill that would enable states to escape restrictions on the use of federal education funds if they could show progress in student achievement.

The administration's proposal for renewing education programs, which was unveiled last month, takes an approach opposite that of the GOP, adding more federal mandates in an effort to raise the achievement levels of underperforming students.

Senate Approves U.N. Payment

The Senate gave near-unanimous approval to legislation to pay nearly $1 billion of the country's longstanding debt to the United Nations but conditioned it on a reduction in future U.S. assessments.

On a 98 to 1 tally, the Senate approved a State Department bill that would reduce the maximum U.S. share of the regular U.N. budget from 25 percent to 20 percent. It also would drop the U.S. share of peacekeeping operations from 31 percent to 25 percent.

In exchange, the bill would free payments of $819 million in U.S. debts to the United Nations over three years and forgive $107 million that the United Nations owes the United States -- for a total repayment package of $916 million.

The United Nations has said the United States will lose its General Assembly voting rights if at least $250 million of the back dues isn't paid by December.

Democrats Stall Spending Bills

Democrats moved yesterday to stall Senate action over critical spending bills to force action on a "patients' bill of rights" measure to regulate the managed-care industry.

Over opposition of all Democrats and two Republicans, the Senate voted 53 to 47 to shelve a Democratic amendment to an agriculture appropriations bill that would have added the Democrats' managed-care proposal to the measure. But this provoked a stalemate because Democrats threatened to keep offering the proposal, piece by piece, until Republicans relent. Republicans said they were willing to vote if Democrats agree to "reasonable" limits on amendments.

Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he and Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) were engaged in discussions to resolve the dispute, and Daschle said he was "encouraged" that the talks could lead to votes on the health care measure this week. He also said he told Lott there was "no chance to move any appropriations bill" unless an agreement is reached to act on the health measure.