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Lawmaker: Fund tuition assistance, not Egypt

Mar. 12, 2013 - 01:16PM   |  
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A Pennsylvania lawmaker proposed saving the military’s tuition assistance program by cutting foreign aid to Egypt.

The effort has almost no chance of success, at least not soon enough to make a difference before next year in the fate of the education program.

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., introduced HR 1039 on Monday, when only the Army and Marine Corps had announced they were canceling tuition assistance because of budget cuts resulting from sequestration. The Coast Guard and Air Force have since announced that they also are ceasing new tuition assistance agreements for the rest of this fiscal year.

Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., is an original cosponsor of the bill.

Fitzpatrick called the services’ decision to shut down tuition assistance “disappointing and unacceptable.”

“As a nation, we must more carefully set our budget priorities,” he said in a statement. “This program, which provides our soldiers and Marines with educational support they have earned, must take precedence over assistance to foreign governments.” The U.S. released $250 million in aid to Egypt on March 3.

The problem with HR 1039 is that Congress is reluctant to pass any measure that modifies the across-the-board cuts of sequestration. Protecting one program, such as tuition assistance, would spark efforts by other lawmakers to protect hundreds of other programs hurt by the cuts, according to congressional aides, who predicted the measure will get no serious consideration until Congress takes up the 2014 federal spending bills.

If Congress could reach an agreement on spending priorities, including tradeoffs such as the one proposed by Fitzpatrick and Jones, sequestration would not have happened in the first place, said the aides, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of Congress.

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