House Passes Boehner’s School Vouchers Bill

Posted March 30, 2011 at 5:54pm

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) won a victory Wednesday with the House passage of his pet project, a bill that would reauthorize a voucher program for private schools in Washington, D.C.

The House passed the bill mostly along party lines, 225-195. Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.) was the only Democrat to vote in favor of passage, while nine Republicans joined Democrats in opposing it.

Boehner choked up in an emotional pitch on the House floor before the vote. The reauthorization bill for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was the first he has sponsored as Speaker and perhaps his only legislative item of the year.

The five-year pilot program expired in 2009 and was not reauthorized. Although it is popular with Republicans in Congress, opponents including the Obama administration argue against its effectiveness. A statement of administration policy released Tuesday laid out strong opposition to Boehner’s bill but stopped short of a veto threat.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a recent statement that the Speaker “has long supported this effective, bipartisan program to help some of the neediest kids in our nation’s capital get a chance at a quality education.”

Boehner is the former chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee and was an original co-sponsor of legislation in 2003, which was attached to an appropriations bill in 2004, enacting the program that gives $7,500 in scholarships to underprivileged D.C. students for private school tuition.

The devout Catholic, himself the product of a private school education, has worked with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, to rally support, and he even hosted 14 students, parents and advocates of the program during this year’s State of the Union address.

The bill, which is also being pushed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), would increase scholarships to $8,000 for elementary school students and $12,000 for high schoolers.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.