D.C. School Voucher Measure Stalls In Senate

A proposed religious school voucher law for the District of Columbia became mired in Senate debate toward the end of September.The proposal, backed by the Bush administration, is included in the District's 2004 budget and would set aside $13 million in federal funds for tuition at religious and other private schools. Vouchers of up to $7,500 per child would be granted to at least 1,700 low-income students.

On Sept. 26, debate on the voucher proposal came to a standstill in the Senate. Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called on the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to pull the voucher proposal from the D.C. budget bill or face a filibuster. Reid said that Senate Republicans did not have enough votes to approve a budget bill containing a voucher proposal. It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster.

Earlier in the month, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a one-vote margin a D.C. school voucher bill that would allocate $10 million in federal funds over five years to pay for tuition for an estimated 1,300 students to attend religious or other private schools.

Americans United called on the senators to strip D.C.'s budget of the voucher proposal. "President Bush and his congressional allies are trying to impose a religious tax on all Americans," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The Senate must reject this misguided crusade."