Floor Updates

Menendez, Merkley, Franken

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012

04:52 PM

Senator Menendez: (4:02 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I cannot believe that we have come to the floor of the United States Senate at a time of economic hardship and recovery for millions of families, a time when jobs are scarce, the need for a skilled workforce is critical and student loans are about to double. Only to have those on the other side turn this into yet another filibuster, another capitulation to those on the far right of their party. Those who are so far right that when they look back along the political spectrum, can see only the small image of their hero Ronald Reagan fading in the distance. They have gone so far to the right, they can no longer see any heroes, not even their own. And so here we are, with our side once again debating the obvious and the other side defending the indefensible position of the far right. We are looking for common sense, reason, and fairness. We are, that is, looking to govern fairly for all. They are looking to play politics that benefit a few. We are asking to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling for seven million Americans by closing a gaping tax loophole that those who have benefited most from this economy can drive an S-corporation through. My Republican friends on the other side are once again saying "No." They are once again attempting to govern from the extreme, once again demanding that even closing an obvious tax loophole that benefits the wealthiest is an unacceptable govern intrusion, but that ending preventive care for those who are struggling with rising health costs is the best option. Can they be serious? Can we be standing in this chamber saying that the most reasonable option to prevent student loans from doubling is not common sense tax reform but ending breast cancer screening for millions of women. Is that the view from the far right of the political spectrum? I ask my colleagues on the other side, do you really believe that that's a fair option? Have we run through all possible options to have reached a opponent where we can now say that the only arrow left in the quiver is to end preventive care as we know it. Have we already ended all outrageous tax loopholes for the wealthy? Have we already ended subsidies to big oil that will make $1 trillion over the next ten years, and yet we give them $24 billion of tax cuts? Have we ended the bush tax cuts for the top 1% and now have no other option than to end preventive health care for women and for millions of Americans whose health depends on it. Unfortunately, it seems our Republican friends have once again put partisanship and politics first. Their budget prioritized tax breaks for the wealthy over keeping college costs down for middle-class families. And only when they realize that this wouldn't play well politically did they reverse course and drop their objections to keeping student loan rates lower because they said no, that's not the government's role. But then they said, well, okay, we'll climb on board with that idea, but only under certain conditions. Rather than close a special interest loophole that only a small minority of wealthy businesses can exploit, they would rather cut funding for children's vaccines, mammograms and other critical services. This is the classic case of giving with one hand and taking with another, and all without asking the wealthiest Americans, those who have reaped the most rewards and benefited the most, particularly in tax breaks they received over the last almost decade, to help the country."

Senator Merkley: (4:15 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I was particularly interested in the speech of a colleague who came to the floor and said this bill is designed to prevent interest rates from doubling is all political show. The concept of it being a political show is difficult for me to get my hands around. Quite frankly, the President didn't set July as the date that student loans would double in cost. That date was set by legislation that was passed here in the Senate and in the House and sent to the President. It is the date just two months from now that is driving the urgency of addressing this issue. Presidential campaign or no presidential campaign. Also, it is important to recognize that this is not a debate at this moment about final adoption of a bill. It is about beginning the process of debating the bill. It is the motion to proceed. And for those unfamiliar with Senate process, while this is a motion that says this is an issue that because of the urgency should be on the floor now for us to work on and everyone here on this chamber knows that it cannot pass without 60 votes. So as the debate unfolds, people bring amendments, those amendments are debated, and hopefully a path is found that will produce the 60 votes necessary to send it on to the house and send it on to the president's desk. And so I differ with my colleague, a colleague actually that I have collaborated with on a number of projects, but my colleague sees this differently. He sees this issue as one of politics. I see it as one of urgent need in America for our students to have a chance to go to college with affordable financing and that that affordable financing is set to expire just a few weeks from now and it's incumbent upon this body to take up this issue and find a pathway to prevent that from happening."

Senator Franken: (4:34 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Yesterday my colleagues, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle stopped the Senate from reducing the enormous burden of debt that students take on at a time when college is more expensive than ever, this body's inaction would increase each student's borrowing costs by about a thousand dollars for each year of schooling that - $1,000 for each year of college. And that is no small amount for most American families. That's because on July 1, the interest rate on new subsidized Stafford loans is scheduled to double from 3.4% to 6.8%. We've been talking about this all day. The students who qualify for these loans are from middle-class and low-income families and if the senate does not act soon, we will make it even harder for them to receive the education and training that they need for jobs in a 21st century economy. High school students and adults looking for new career opportunities realize just how economically necessary it is to attend college. In my generation, if you had a high school degree, you could get a good manufacturing job that paid decent wages and gave you health care and a pension. Today, you need postsecondary training and strong computer and math skills to operate the equipment in most manufacturing facilities. But it's not just manufacturing. It's many of the fastest growing jobs in the United States, it's computer jobs and health care jobs be. A high school diploma simply longer is a ticket for a job that pays family-supporting wages. And with an increasing number of jobs requiring some level of postsecondary training, we have a significant skills gap in Minnesota, the state that the presiding member, the President, and I are proud to represent. 70% of the jobs in the next several years will require postsecondary training, yet only 40% of working-age Minnesotans currently have a postsecondary degree. Most of our states have similar skill gaps. The United States used to lead the world in the percentage of adults with a college degree. Today we're number 16. If our nation is going to prosper in a global economy, and continue to grow economically, we need to provide pathways for students to attend and pay for college so that we can close those skill gaps."