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“In my opinion, comprehensive just doesn’t work. If you do a big bill, then there’s some reason for everybody to vote against it, and it makes it very difficult to get done,” Enzi said.
Enzi noted that he is still sitting down with Harkin — including talks on Wednesday and today — to try and get a deal.
“I am still an optimist. ... I’m working on it, and he’s working on it,” Enzi said.
Harkin issued a hopeful statement Wednesday.
“We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress,” he said. “In my view, we have agreement on all but a few issues for a comprehensive reauthorization. I remain hopeful that Senator Enzi and I can resolve these and present a comprehensive bill to our fellow committee members. A piecemeal approach will not provide our nation’s children, teachers, principals and schools with the reform they need.”
More broadly, Democrats acknowledge that legislating on anything this year has been hard. They are skeptical of whether Republicans are willing to give President Barack Obama a legislative victory on anything significant before the 2012 elections, noting how few bills of any stripe have reached his desk this year.
“We’re operating in a broader environment — aside from Harkin and Enzi — that is extremely partisan,” one aide lamented.
The aide said that there is general agreement that the No Child Left Behind law, the brainchild of former President George W. Bush, was a federal overreach in several areas — but on the other hand, kicking everything to the states goes too far.
“Harkin is very committed to right-sizing the role of the federal government,” the aide said, but, “Education is a national priority with national consequences.”
Some of the GOP proposals outlined Wednesday, which include expanding charter schools and consolidating numerous education programs, are in line with Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s own proposals, Republicans said.