“The federal government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students,” the statement said.
But the administration stopped short of a veto threat, leaving the door open for a deal with Republicans.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative and a staunch opponent of the program, has urged the president not to use school vouchers as a bargaining chip in ongoing negotiations with Republicans.
The Democrat also said the program violates the District’s right to self-government.
“The pattern of this Congress could not be clearer. … They have done nothing but try to take from the District of Columbia with bill after bill; now they want to help us against our will,” she said.
“If you want to help us, give us the courtesy, have the good grace to ask us how we want to be helped.”
Rep. Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, chided D.C. leaders who oppose the measure, saying they risk shortchanging their constituents.
“I think they have to begin to look at themselves more deeply, at those that they actually represent - those who voted for them but did not vote to have this money rejected,” said Mr. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, which has about 500 voucher students in its schools, have pushed lawmakers to reinstate the program.
“This is a great day for the children of the District of Columbia,” said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, in a statement released after the vote. “Access to quality education should not be denied because of one’s income or residence.”
But Washington Mayor Vincent C. Gray said renewing the program was unnecessary because the city’s public school system is improving.
“We hope the Senate will counter these regressive and draconian measures and allow the city to govern itself,” he said.
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Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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