Rep. George Nethercutt started campaigning for re-election in Spokane on Tuesday by talking with veterans and raking in money with congressional colleague J.C. Watts.
The two Republican members of the House of Representatives lauded veterans for their service and promised to wage a battle of their own for school vouchers in the District of Columbia school system.
“It’s worth fighting for,” Watts, of Oklahoma, said. “We have to fight the battle, tell the truth and get the American people behind us.”
Later this week, Congress is to vote on a bill that provides money to keep the nation’s capital running. In that spending plan is a proposal to give cash “scholarships” to as many as 2,000 low-income students - money which could be used at private schools.
A larger national program for school vouchers, which Watts helped draft, was defeated late last month. The District of Columbia vouchers were approved by narrow margins in both the Senate and House but face a threatened veto by President Clinton.
The Office of Management and Budget has warned that the proposal sets a dangerous precedent for using tax dollars on private schools that are not accountable to the public.
Nethercutt said Congress may separate the vouchers plan from the rest of the spending bill, and hold separate votes. He hopes that doesn’t happen, despite the president’s veto threats.
“I think it ought to be a package deal,” the Spokane congressman said after speaking to a group of veterans outside the Veterans Memorial Arena.
Some critics have said the district voucher plan is too limited, that more students in Washington, D.C., and other students in school systems around the country deserve the same chance.
“The alternative is these 2,000 students are left behind along with the other students,” Nethercutt said. “How bad can this experiment be?”
“In this business, you get what you can get when you can get it. A 90-yard bomb isn’t going to get the job done,” said Watts, a former star quarterback for the University of Oklahoma.
Three weeks ago, Nethercutt announced he wasn’t running for the Senate.
On Tuesday, with 51 weeks to go before the next general election, Watts helped Nethercutt raise more than $19,000 from an enthusiastic breakfast crowd of about 550.
Watts told the audience that the Republican Congress, which took over in 1995 after he and Nethercutt were first elected, still has work to do.
Although the budget is scheduled to be balanced by 2002, nothing has been done yet to reduce the national debt, Watts said. , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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