Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that he disagrees with President Bush's position on an affirmative action case before the Supreme Court, as the White House called for more money for historically black colleges.
Powell, one of two black members of Bush's Cabinet, said he supports methods the University of Michigan uses to bolster minority enrollments in its undergraduate and law school programs. The policies offer points to minority applicants and set goals for minority admissions.
"Whereas I have expressed my support for the policies used by the University of Michigan, the president, in looking at it, came to the conclusion that it was constitutionally flawed, based on the legal advice he received," Powell said on the CBS program "Face the Nation." It was a rare public acknowledgment of disagreement with the president.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said she backed Bush's decision to step into the case and to argue that the University of Michigan's methods were unconstitutional. She said on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday that there are "problems" with the university's selection policies, citing the points system.
But she also said race can be a factor in the selection process for colleges and universities. The brief the Bush administration filed with the Supreme Court was silent on the issue of whether race should be a factor under some circumstances.
"It is important to take race into consideration, if you must, if race-neutral means do not work," she said.
In a speech at the Republican National Convention in 2000, Powell sharply criticized GOP attacks on affirmative action.
"We must understand the cynicism that exists in the black community," he said. "The kind of cynicism that is created when, for example, some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education, but you hardly heard a whimper from them over affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax codes with preferences for special interests."
Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige is the other black member of Bush's Cabinet. Paige firmly agrees with Bush's stance, a spokesman said yesterday.
In an unusual announcement last night, the White House said Bush's budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year would increase funding by 5 percent for grants to historically black colleges, universities, graduate programs and Hispanic education institutions.
The money affects three programs:
* The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program offers grants to 99 institutions to help them strengthen infrastructure and achieve greater financial stability.
* The Historically Black Graduate Institutions Program offers five-year grants to 18 institutions to help provide graduate-level education.
* The Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program offers five-year grants to institutions with a full-time Hispanic enrollment of at least 25 percent, 50 percent of which must be students from low-income households.