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Deal Possible for Education Reform

Leslie E. Kossoff/Getty Images

“There is definitely a real shot of getting this done,” by the summer, a senior House Democratic aide said.

A senior Senate GOP aide said the fact that Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) is participating in the same talks as HELP ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) is “a good indicator that GOP leadership is open to moving a bill.”

But for all the agreement on the need for action, senior Republican aides are still cautioning that key details need to be worked out. For starters, some GOP aides say Obama’s call on Monday for a final package by August is arbitrary and rings of the string of missed deadlines that he attached to health care reform legislation over the past two years.

The president’s announcement that he wants legislation on his desk by late summer “came a little bit out of left field,” one House GOP leadership aide said. “I’m not sure how possible it is.”

The consensus in last week’s White House meeting was that “everyone would like to get something done this year,” but not necessarily by the summer, the aide added. “This August is pushing it.”

And a senior Senate Republican aide said that while there is “wide bipartisan support” for reforming the law, Republican support will likely depend on who drafts it.

“Will it be [unions] writing the bill or Senators?” this aide asked.

Even Kline signaled Monday that while he is eager to move forward, he won’t be rushed on the issue.

“We need to take the time to get this right. We cannot allow an arbitrary timeline to undermine quality reforms that encourage innovation, flexibility, and parental involvement,” the Minnesota Republican said in a statement shortly after Obama’s remarks.

For now, aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) say that while education reform is on their radar, they are waiting for their respective committees to take action before talking about timing for floor debates.

Boehner could play a unique role in shaping this debate given that he was an original co-author of No Child Left Behind as the former chairman of the House education panel. But his office wouldn’t give any insight into whether the Speaker may get more involved in negotiations because of his past experience.

“Chairman Kline will be leading our efforts on any education reform,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.

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