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House Republicans Lose Battle On Health, Education Measure

By Carl Hulse


House Republican leaders were dealt a rare defeat Thursday as Democrats and 22 Republicans teamed up to kill a major health and education spending measure.

The 224-209 rejection of the $142.5 billion in spending on an array of social programs was the first time since the early days of the Republican takeover of the House a decade ago that the majority had come out on the losing end of such a vote.

The struggle on the spending measure underlined the divide over spending policy confounding House Republicans as they struggle to provide relief for hurricane victims while placating party members alarmed about growth in federal spending.

It also focused attention once again on the difficulties of a leadership team that has been somewhat off balance since September when Rep. Tom DeLay was forced to step aside as majority leader after he was indicted in Texas.

In rebelling against the spending measure, Democrats and some Republicans said it fell woefully short of fulfilling federal commitments.

They pointed, for example, to cuts of $900 million for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for rural health care. They opposed the elimination of $8 billion to prepare for a potential flu pandemic. And they pointed to a provision to that would strip money from a variety of popular education programs and leave Pell Grants to college students frozen, as part of the first reduction in education spending in a decade.

“The Republican bill to fund our nation’s investments in health, education and other important programs betrayed our nation’s values and its future,” Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said.

Despite the loss on one spending front, the leadership forged ahead Thursday night with an effort to pass a separate measure making $50 billion in budget cuts over five years after massaging the plan to try to win support from moderate opponents. Debate on the bill was postponed last week when the leadership ran short of votes.

In another indication of the turmoil in Congress, a tentative deal to extend the government’s anti-terrorism powers under the Patriot Act appeared in some jeopardy Thursday, as Senate Democrats threatened to mount a filibuster in an effort to block the legislation.