Floor Updates

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 08 2012 10:00 AM

The Senate Convened.

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

May 08 2012 10:19 AM

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill. The time until 12:00 PM will be equally divided, with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill.
    • Following the ROLL CALL VOTE, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus lunches.

Senator Reid: (10:03 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Over the last two weeks Senate Republicans have repeatedly claimed they support efforts to keep interest rates low for federal student loans. In fact, the Republican presidential nominee has said the same. Democrats have proposed legislation to freeze student loan interest rates for a year without adding a single penny to the deficit. Our plan creates no new taxes. Our plan, creates no new taxes. It would simply stop wealthy Americans from avoiding the taxes they already owe. Our legislation would prevent seven million students from paying $1,000 more over the life of their loans. Yet Republicans appear poised to filibuster this measure. They are sending a message that they'd rather protect wealthy tax dodgers - that's what they are. Republicans will try to explain away their "no" votes by claiming they oppose the way the legislation is paid for. They propose cuts to preventive health funds instead, a proposal they know that we oppose. We have already cut that plan to the bare bones. We've used this on other programs to cut and we've done it in the right way. Any fluff that was in that program is gone. Some say we've cut far too much out of it. The prevention fund is, as we speak, helping states fight chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. These diseases that I've just mentioned cause, of all the deaths in America today, seven out of ten are caused from latter disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. And what they want to use to pay for the student loan interest rate stabilization is programs that do just that, stop those diseases from going forward. It's a preventive program. And, these diseases are responsible for three-quarters of the nation's health care spending. So anything we can do to cut those back is the right thing to do."

Senator McConnell: (10:11 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Rather than working with Republicans to help young people in this country weather the effects of the Obama economy, Democrats have sought to distract them from it. Never mind the fact that Democratic leaders supported the bill that will cause interest rates on certain college loans to spike on July 1. Never mind the fact that President Obama was so concerned about this issue when this legislation passed that he didn't even show up for the vote. Never mind the fact that Democrats have known this problem was coming for literally years but deliberated waited two months before their temporary fix was due to expire to do anything about it. Never mind any of that. What matters now for Democrats is that they find a way to drive a wedge between Republicans and a constituency that they're looking to court ahead of the November election. That's what today's vote is all about for them. Well, Republicans, while we don't think young people should have to suffer anymore than they already are as a result of this President's failure to turn the economy around, we just disagree that we should pay for a fix by diverting $6 billion from Medicare and raising taxes on the very businesses we're counting on to hire these young people. But, as said, solving the problem isn't what this is about for Senate democrats and the White House that they're coordinating with. Finding a solution to this problem actually isn't difficult at all. What's difficult is getting Democrats to agree to it in an election year. For them, it's about putting the other party on the spot. Look, Republicans have a solution to this problem. We've asked for a vote on it. Even Senator Harkin, who opposes our approach, thinks we should at least get that vote. But following the President's lead, Senate Democratic leaders have decided to put the finger of blame instead on us instead of solving the problem, which of course is completely ridiculous . Republicans are ready to offer temporary relief, just as we did for working Americans earlier this year by extending the payroll tax holiday. To pay for this fix, Republicans propose to end an Obamacare slush fund that Democrats and the President himself have already drawn from to cover other expenses. This is a pay-for Democrats and the President have already used. This is perfectly reasonable. It's a solution to a problem both parties want to address."

Murray, Brown-OH, Klobuchar, Franken

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 08 2012 10:48 AM

Senator Murray: (10:18 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We are here today because unless Congress acts, interest rates for many of our students, over 100,000 of them in my home state of Washington, is going to double in just 55 days. On July 1, the law we passed that held rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans to 3.4% will end, and rates are going to jump overnight to 6.8%. That is going to add $1,000 to the cost of loans for these young people. And it's going to be another huge strain for students and families who are already fighting to afford college and still struggling in this tough economy. This isn't just an abstract issue for me. For me it's very personal. Pell grants and student loans were what allowed my six brothers and sisters and I to go to college when my dad got sick and had to leave his job. They were what made college affordable for us, and they were what allowed each one of us to pursue careers and give back to our communities. Because our government was there for us at a very tough time for us, those seven kids in my family grew up to be a firefighter, a lawyer, a computer programmer, a sports writer, a homemaker, a middle school teacher and a United States senator. Pretty good investment by our country We should be investing in our future and trying to get more high school students to continue their education. We should not be doubling interest rates on a critical loan program that students count on. It does not make sense. The Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike bill that is before us is a commonsense measure that will prevent a rate hike on more than 7.4 million college students, and it pays for it by closing a tax loophole that allows certain wealthy professionals to dodge paying their fair share of taxes."

Senator Brown-OH: (10:24 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We have no business letting the interest rate double. The vote that will take place in less than an hour gives us an opportunity to help students in a huge way. The average Ohio graduate of a four-year university has a $27,000 student debt. If we're going to pile more money on that debt by allowing the interest rate to go from 3.4% to 6.8%, it means that student is less likely to be able to buy a house, less likely to be able to probably start a family, less likely to be able to start a business. It just saps wealth from our community. If we can keep this interest rate at 3.4%, it will pay dividends much more than the cost of this ... This was a bipartisan arrangement. Back in 2007 when Senator Klobuchar and I were in our first year in the Senate, President Bush signed legislation brought forward, passed by a democratic Senate and democratic House with Republican support So broad bipartisan support to lock in 3.4% for five years. Why are people making it partisan now? The fact is we should pass this legislation today. We should pay for it in a way by closing these tax loopholes that, call this the Newt Gingrich-John Edwards loophole in their private-sector lives have been legally been able to avoid tens of thousands of dollars in taxes, lobbying firms, consulting firms all have used this loophole. Governor Romney wanted to close this loophole when he was governor of Massachusetts. It is something we should move forward on. Put the partisanship aside. Pass this. This is good for individual students. Like the G.I. bill after World War II. It was good for millions of individual students and look what it did for our society as a whole. It made us a richer country, more prosperous country, more egalitarian country. What's not to like about that. That's why we should pass this legislation."

Senator Klobuchar: (10:27 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "These students are working hard and we must make sure they are able to complete their college degrees. Tuition and fees have been rising faster than household income over the last two decades and it is becoming harder to afford these costs. We know that student loan debt has reached record levels. College seniors owed an average of $25,000 in student loan debt graduating in 2010, with a total loan debt reaching $1 trillion. This is what we're dealing with, I know when I had student loans, I paid them off ... But never in these kind of amounts that our students today are facing. And while it's normally a good thing to be above average, my moment state is unfortunately above average in student loan debt. We rank fourth in the nation. The average Minnesota student graduates from college with more than $29,000 in loan debt. As college costs skyrocket and student loan debt climbs, we have to consider what this means for students today and what effect this will have on our future. At a time when our global economy, as I mentioned, demands more than our workforce, we must focus on the foundation of our future prosperity. That is education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math. And to advance in those fields, you need at least a two-year degree or a four-year degree. We know that. We must do more to expand higher-education opportunities and make college more affordable for students. It is one of the best investments we can make in the long-term success for America and that's because education just doesn't pay off for students. It also pays off for our country in the form of a skilled workforce and competitive economy."

Senator Franken: (10:36 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Nationally student loan debt is over $1 trillion now. It's higher than credit card debt. And over 60% of the class of 2010 graduates with outstanding student loans, college graduates. In Minnesota, we're fourth in the country in the level of debt that college graduates take with them. It's $29,000. This is hurting us as a nation, in competition with other countries. It wasn't too many years ago when the United States was number one in the world in the percentage of its adult population that had graduated from college. Now we're something like 16th. That's going to hurt us. We have to do something about student debt You have to graduate from college or at least get a two-year degree to get a good job in this country, a good-paying job. In the next seven years 70% of jobs in Minnesota will require some type of postsecondary credential. Yet right now only 40% of working-age Minnesotans have one. If we are going to compete with other countries, we got to do something about this. What can we do? We got to get long-term costs under control. There is a lot to do there. But in the short term - that's the long term. But in the short term, at least we should do no harm. On July 1, Stafford loans are set to go to 6.8% ...This legislation is written in 2007. It said it would double. What the interest rates have done from 2007 to now, they've shot down. This makes no sense whatsoever. This is going to affect over 7.5 million students nationwide, over 200,000 students in Minnesota f we fail to take action, this will cost every student in Minnesota about $1,000 in increased loans for each year of college over the cost of their lives. That's money. That's real money."

Heller, Johanns, Corker

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 08 2012 11:16 AM

Senator Heller: (10:47 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The inflation-adjusted cost of college has almost tripled over the last 25 years while median family income over the same period of time has risen only about 10%. Fees keep rising rapidly, soaring 8.3% in the last year for public universities and 4.5% for private institutions. In 2009, more than half of all public college graduates were in debt, with an average loan burden of nearly $20,000. For private college graduates, the percentage and amount of debt is even greater. The loan burden itself is substantial, and last thing graduates need to worry about is high interest rates on these loans. I was proud to vote for the initial efforts to keep student loan interest rates low-back when I was serving in the House in 2007. Now I'm a proud cosponsor of the Interest Rate Reduction Act which has been offered by my friend from Tennessee, Mr. Alexander. This legislation prevents student loans from doubling from 3.4% to 6.8%, and I truly hope Congress will be able to come together with a bipartisan agreement soon to prevent this rate increase from going into effect on July 1. While student loan rates should be addressed, I'm even more worried about the overall economic climate facing college grads. Recent reports found more than half of bachelors degree holders under the age of 25 last year, 1.5 million Americans, were jobless or the underemployed. Of the 1.5 million languishing in the job market half were unemployed. These would-be professionals were unemployed and unable to start paying their jobs or have a job that may only provide enough for them to barely scrape by paycheck by paycheck. Instead of becoming the workforce of the next generation, the majority of recent graduates are finding their personal lives and finances mired in this ailing economy. Parents who have been laid off or have seen their savings diminished have not been able to help their children through their education as they may have planned or wanted to. Our children and grandchildren are paying the price for Washington's failure to lead our nation out of this economic crisis."

Senator Johanns: (10:52 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The bill we will vote on taxes small businesses and raids funds that would otherwise go to shore up the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Providing relief for students, protecting seniors' benefits, and fueling our nation's job engine should not be mutually exclusive goals. We should not be pitting one sector of our population against the other, and yet that's what we will do later on today. This bill sacrifices one of those goals I just mentioned and puts another in jeopardy to achieve a third. And I believe that's counterproductive. Why? In part because the future of our young people is so dependent on the availability of jobs in America. This bill would raise taxes on job creators at a terrible time. The U.S. economy only grew by 1.7% in the last year, and our unemployment rate has been over 8% for now 39 consecutive months. Taxing job creators has a chilling effect on hiring. It really isn't straightforward to promise students the American dream while making it harder for them to get a job. Often the first step toward realizing their dreams. The bill is also enormously unfair to senators. By diverting tax revenues that would otherwise go to Social Security and Medicare, it ignores the warning flags that we just received yet again about these programs. A recent trustees' report verifies that both of these programs are on unsustainable paths. Medicare's projected to be insolvent by 2024, and Social Security by 2033 two dates that are well within sight. But instead of helping to strengthen these programs for the future, this bill spends the money elsewhere. The legislation ignores reality, and sadly, that's been all too familiar I am proud to cosponsor the Alexander legislation that does the right thing for our country's students. This bill provides relief for students during a difficult economic time and it uses money from a fund created by the health care law to pay for the extension. Identical language has already passed in the House, and it is here for the Senate to consider. And the President has already signed legislation into law using this very health care fund as an offset. The President even included cuts to this fund in his own deficit-reduction proposal. But now when it's politically expedient to oppose those cuts, he has conveniently changed his mind. Well, these flip-flops don't go unnoticed by the American people. I hope we can consider Senator Alexander's legislation soon and the President will reconsider his threat to veto it."

Senator Corker: (11:06 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The reason students are having to borrow so much money to go to college these days is what we've done in Washington. If you look at the Medicaid programs in West Virginia or Tennessee, what you've seen over the course of the last couple of decades is that Medicaid costs have been rising dramatically in our own states and what's happening in state governments is because they're forced to fund these huge Medicaid costs, they don't have the same resources available to fund public higher education and so what's happening is, these state governments, which are compelled by us, by the way, to fund these Medicaid programs - and I think, let me make a point, most people realize that when the passage of the health care bill a couple of years ago, we're going to have upwards of 25 million more Americans across this country on Medicaid. That was the large of the part of the health care expansion that took place. In my own state of Tennessee they've already projected that over a five-year period it's going to cost them over $1 billion to fund what this congress mandated as it relates to health care just a few years ago. So that is a billion dollars that is not going to be available for higher education. So, first of all, when we campaign around the country and we talk about wanting to deal with student lending, I think we ought to be looking at ourselves - let me put it this way - at Congress because Congress is actually the one that's driving these exorbitant tuition rates in the first place by these mandates that we're placing on state government It is kind of appalling. In our own state, at a time when Medicaid costs rose 15% in order make our state budget balance, what the state legislature did was invest 15% less in higher education. Again, what's happening is, young people like the ones that are sitting in front of me are having to pay exorbitant tuition costs because the states around our country are not able to invest in higher education and, therefore, it's being sloughed off on the books of students as they enter college."

Reed, Harkin, Alexander

Student Loan bilL (S. 2343)

May 08 2012 12:01 PM

Senator Reed: (11:15 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We've paid, or propose to pay for, for this one-year extension by closing an egregious loophole in the tax code that's enabled certain high-wage earners to avoid paying their fair share into Social Security and Medicare by misclassifying their wages as profits through the sub-chapter S. Corporations. It is a very small subset of corporations doing this and our proposal is targeted. This is not the small manufacturing plant or the pharmacy or the lumber dealer. These are consultants. These are high-paid attorneys. These are professionals that have chosen to put between themselves and their company or their partnership another entity purely for the purpose of minimizing their payroll tax exposure. That is a loophole that should be cut regardless of other measures we're considering. Essentially this is a very, very, very small group of people. As I said, in order to be subject to this proposal, you would have to have 75% or more of the gross revenues from professional services. This doesn't apply to the manufacturer or the merchant. It's lawyers, accountants, lobbyists and similarly positioned individuals. And it's further restricted to only those who earn more than $250,000 filing jointly. This is not the struggling underpaid professional. These are people who are doing reasonably well in this very complicated and competitive society. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation in 2009 about 15% of all S-corporations are service businesses as defined in this bill. This subset is responsible for billions of dollars of lost revenue to Medicare and Social Security. In a 2009 report, the Government Accountability Office found in 2003 and 2004 tax years, individuals used this loophole to underreport over $23 billion in wage income. This is a loophole that should be closed. I hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will take a serious look at it and join us in supporting this bill. We have 53 days to prevent the interest rate from doubling on subsidized student loans. We have no time to waste."

Senator Harkin: (11:25 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We have a serious offer, a serious offer, a serious offset, one which is widely recognized as a terrible loophole. By closing that loophole which affects just a microcosm of individuals in this country, we're able to pay for keeping the interest rates at 3.4% for another year. My friends on the other side of the aisle say, well, they want to keep the 3.4%, but they want to pay for it by eliminating, killing the prevention and public health fund that goes to help make sure that our kids don't get diabetes, to make sure that we fight obesity, that we cut down on smoking in this country, that we make sure that kids get their vaccinations, that elderly can get their annual checkups on colonoscopies and breast cancer screening, all the things that go to save us money on health care. That's the prevention fund. They want to take that money away from there. They want to just end that program. That's their offset. Well, if that's what they want, fine. But let's get to the bill. If they want to offer that as an offset, fine, we'll vote on it. But they don't even want to go to the bill. Their priorities are not the students. Their priorities are protecting a small class of individuals in this country who use the tax code to avoid paying their fair share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. Now we've heard all about job creators, job creators. We democrats are going after these job creators. Well, the offset that we have only affects subchapter-S corporations and only subchapter S-corporations that have three or less stockholders. Three or less. These are usually family members. They don't create any jobs. Three or less. If you have five or ten or more, you're not covered by this. Only if you have three or less. And only - only - if you have more than $250,000 a year in income. Very narrowly drawn. Very narrowly drawn. But the Joint Tax Committee scores this saying that over ten years, by closing this loophole, we put $6 billion into the Medicare trust fund and $3 billion into the Social Security trust fund. So there's $9 billion there of money where people using this loophole, a few people using this loophole are able to escape paying their share of Medicare and Social Security taxes. We're saying let's close that loophole. Let's use those savings, put them into the Medicare and Social Security trust fund, and under the scoring system here, any revenue that's raised or mandatory cuts go to offset any increases in mandatory spending. Well, that's sort of kind of loophole, we are able to do two important things. One, put more money into the Social Security and Medicare trust funds and keep interest rate for students at 3.4% for another year."

Senator Alexander: (11:30 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "President Obama in his February 13 budget proposal proposed taking $4 billion away from the fund. And then in his 2011 deficit reduction package, he proposed taking $3.5 billion from the fund. So it's about partisan proposal. I mean, we're a government that's borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend, and if we're going to spend some money, we have to save some money at the very least. What we are proposing on the Republican side is the same goal that the Democrats have. It's the same goal that both President Obama and Governor Romney have, which is to take this 3.4% interest rate for new loans for 40% of students and extend it at that rate for another year while we take a look at what the long-term prospects could be. We agree on that. We agree that 3.4% ought to continue to be the rate for another year. The President agrees. Governor Romney agrees. We just don't agree with Senator Reid's proposal for how to pay for it. And we have suggested paying for it by reducing spending in the health care law and reducing it in a way that all but six Democratic senators support it, or at least from the fund that they supported reducing before and from the fund that the President has supported reducing before. Now, why are we suggesting the health care law? Well, there is a reason for that. It's because those who pass the health care law are overcharging students on their student loans in order to help pay for the health care law. Here's why I say that. The government is borrowing money according to the Congressional Budget Office the way it scores spending today. The government's borrowing money at 2.8%. It's loaning it to students at 6.8%. Now, the truth is 6.8% is a pretty good loan rate for a - for a student who may be unemployed. Today I think my colleague from Tennessee, Senator Corker, was on the floor talking about that a little earlier, so there might be other ways of looking at this spending that would look at it differently. But the way the Congressional Budget Office scores this spending today, it says the government is borrowing money at 2.8%, loaning it at 6.8%, and that the government's making in effect a profit. That's my words, profit. The CBO says that based on the amount of money that the government is receiving from the student loans, it makes a profit or a savings of $61 billion over ten years. So what did our friends on the other side do with that $61 billion? Well, the Senator from Iowa very carefully explained that yesterday. They spent it, all except $10 billion which they used for deficit reduction. Couldn't keep their hands off of it. They spent it on government programs and they spent $8.7 billion of that excess money on student loans, they spent it to help pay for the health care law. So all we're saying is that we're looking for money to keep the interest rate at 3.4%. If we're trying to help students, why don't we give it back to the students, the money we're taking from them to help pay for the health care law? We're overcharging students according to the way the Congressional Budget Office looks at the bill. We're overcharging students by $8.7 billion to help pay for the health care law. So we propose in our suggestion that we freeze the rate at 3.4%, that we give back to students the money we're overcharging them for and excess money over $6 billion we use to reduce the debt, which we need to do at a time when we're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend."

Senator Harkin: (11:42 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I want to make it clear that the President did put in his budget taking some money out of the prevention fund. I assume my friend would know that I was not much in favor of that proposal. And then it was used then later on, then it was used to extend the unemployment insurance and also the payroll tax cut to the end of this year. That money was used for that. I was not very supportive of that. I thought we should have taken the money elsewhere, but at least the President has said that's it, no more. We'll take a nick out of that prevention fund but no more, and that's why he issued an statement of administration policy that said he would veto this bill if it had any cuts to the prevention and public health fund ... Lastly, I can't help but also talk again about the $61 billion that the senator from Tennessee keeps talking about, that $61 billion. As I said yesterday, he's right in one way. We did spend it. The question is what did we spend it on? As I said, $36 billion went to increase Pell grants. I don't think my friend from Tennessee would want to cut Pell grants. I think he's a pretty good supporter of Pell grants. That's where $36 billion of that went. $750 million went to college access challenge grant programs, $2 billion went for community colleges. So my friend may be right. Maybe we could reduce those interest rates a little bit, but what that money is being used for is basically students. Now, I will be honest about this, $10 billion went for decreasing the deficit. I don't think my friend from Tennessee would be opposed to that. $9.2 billion went to other health care programs, including requiring dependent coverage in the health care bill. In other words, how many students now are covered under their parents' policies until they're age 26. They didn't have that before. Now they've got it. So some of this money was used to invest in that or community health care centers. Yes, we did do that. By providing some of the money from that, $9.2 billion of that for some specific types of items in that health care bill Lastly, I just have to ask a question. Are we having a health care debate here or are we having an education debate? I thought we were talking about education."

Senator Alexander: (11:49 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "He asked the question who connected health care to student loans. It was the Democrats who connected health care to student loans. Think about this. Here we are debating a health care law, a few years ago, and what happens? The Democrats, the majority, say, well, while we're at it, while we're supposedly fixing health care, we're going to take over the entire student loan program. We're going to make Arne Duncan, a terrific Secretary of Education, make him banker of the year, banker of the century, in charge of making $100 billion of new loans to students all America. As a part of the health care law, they got rid of the student loan program, most of which was handled by people you would expect to be making loans, that's banks, and put it into the government. They did that on the theory the banks were making too much money. It reminds me of people who think if you can find it in the yellow pages, they got ought to be doing it. Autos, student loans, put it on the government. If you're going to do that, if you're going to connect the two, student loans and banks, and then the Congressional Budget Office comes along and says, well, okay, if you take over the student loan program and put it in the government, you save $61 billion, that's $61 billion ought to go to the students who are getting the loans. That's my view. That's our view. And the Congressional Budget Office estimates that if you applied that $61 billion to the current student loans, that you could reduce the average loan to about 5.3% and save $2,200 a year. It wasn't anybody on this side of the aisle, I believe I'm absolutely sure about that, who suggested during the health care debate we ought to suddenly say while we're at it, let's take over the student loan program. All we're saying today, is this: we agree with President Obama, we agree with Governor Romney, and we agree with the House of Representatives that the rate for subsidized student loans should stay at 3.4% for the next 12 months. That will save students about $7 a month in with interest payments. Only difference we have is how to pay for it. They want to raise taxes on people who are creating jobs while we're still the in the midst of the greatest recession since the great depression. We say since the government is loaning money at 2.8% - I mean we are borrowing, the government is borrowing money at 2.8% and loaning it to students at 6.8% and since the Congressional Budget Office said that there was a savings of $61 billion when the federal government took over the loan program, and that $8.7 billion of that went to pay for the health care law, we ought to take the money that the government is overcharging students to help pay for the health care law and pay to keep this rate lower."

May 08 2012 12:29 PM

Not Agreed to, 52-45-1:
Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Sanders, Boxer, Brown-MA

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 08 2012 2:41 PM

Senator Sanders: (2:14 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise to express deep disappointment in the vote that just took place here a few hours ago, where our Republican colleagues voted to filibuster our efforts to make sure that student loans in this country do not double from 3.4% to 6.8% in July. I think everybody understands that the young people in our country today in the midst of this terrible recession are facing extraordinary challenges. They are paying three to four times as much than their parents paid for a college education, regardless of whether they attend a private or public college. And when they receive their diplomas, they have no guarantee, given the state of the economy today that they are going to be able to get a job and earn the income to pay off those debts. Given the challenges that college students today are facing, the least we can do is to keep student loan interest rates at a low rate for another year. The interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans has been steadily reduced since Congress passed the college cost reduction and access act of 2007, but if Congress does nothing, interest rates on subsidized stafford loans are set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1, 2012. When we talk about Stafford loans, we are talking about student loans for students from low- and moderate-income backgrounds. Subsidized Stafford loans are need based and targeted to students who otherwise might not be able to attend college. Nearly one-third of undergraduates have benefited from these low-interest federal loans, and if the interest rate doubles this year, the rate hike will impact up to nine million students, and we must not allow that to happen. Among the students who will be impacted are 19,000 young people from the state of Vermont. In my state, nearly 70% of college graduates are carrying student loan debts. 70%. And on average that debt is $30,000. Which puts Vermont at the sixth highest student loan debt in the country."

Senator Boxer: (2:22 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent â€"
    • The Senate is on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, with the time until 5:15 PM equally divided (without objection).
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I was stunned that my Republican friends refused to give us a vote to proceed to the issue. And I think every student in America today should turn their focus to this chamber because the Republican Party today made it impossible for us to lower your student loan rates. They made it impossible. And this is going to mean thousands and thousands of dollars over the life of a student loan. And so while the Republicans are calling for major tax cuts for billionaires and millionaires of $100,000, $200,000 a year, in cuts, they don't have the heart to help middle-class students get a break on their interest rates for college. And for graduate school. I find it appalling. And if anyone wants to know the difference between the parties, start with this. Who do you fight for when you're here? We all say we're for the next generation. We all have the speeches. Oh, they're terrific, they are beautiful, each party. But when push comes to shove, who's voting to help our students get an interest rate that they can afford so they're not shackled to a high interest rate at a time of historic low interest rates? Democrats are on their side, and all we have to do is looking at the vote today. There's nothing else. You don't have to understand any more than the Republicans blocked us from debating the importance of lowering interest on student loans."

Senator Brown-MA: (2:27 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Wow. That was interesting. I remember the senator was speaking before me before we left she was praising the Republicans for working with her, one Republican specifically, about how appreciative she was about working together and taking the time in a bipartisan manner to work forward on a very important piece of legislation that she was spearheading and we worked for. We didn't filibuster that. We didn't filibuster the postal bill, we didn't filibuster the violence against women, the crowd-funding or the insider trading bill but all of a sudden we're filibustering now. Bottom line, we wants an opportunity to have an alternative proposal and have a full and fair debate and I think the American people are smart. I know the American people are smarter than that. And I stand before you today to just reference that most students and parents know that in July the fixed interest rates on subsidized government student loans are set to double. That was very eloquently pointed out just now. But let's be clear. The vast majority of the members of this body want to prevent that from happening. That's a no-brainer. Unfortunately today we voted on a bill that's not bipartisan. It's very clear it's not bipartisan to raise taxes on subchapter S-corporations which are the people that are doing some of the very serious job creation in this country, it's not going to pass the house. It's not going to pass muster for and with the American people. It was not negotiated in good faith and as I said, it has no chance of passing in the House of Representatives. Once again we're preparing for an unnecessary political battle. That's kind of what happens. We have a rough spot, then do two or three things that are really good and then we get stuck again, then do two or three things that are really good, and, you know, it's unnecessary. We need to work in good faith and negotiate a compromise instead, a 100% Democratic bill is not going to pass, folks. Listening up there a 100% Republican bill isn't going to help. It needs to be a bipartisan, bicameral bill that the President will sign."
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "My bill, the Subsidized Stafford Loans Reduced Interest Rate Extension Act, would extend the subsidized rate for a year and to pay for it I suggest a noncontroversial option - reducing federal improper payments. We've all heard about the amazing amount of waste that goes on just by paying people that are dead that shouldn't be getting their payments and also paying other entities that have already been paid or being improperly paid. It's millions - I'm sorry, billions and billions of dollars. The bill establishes a government-wide do not-pay list and requires new audit programs across federal agencies to provide more tools to battle back and make sure we can recapture those moneys. Let meet give you a few examples of the improper payments so the folks up there listening and watching on TV can kind of reference. The payments that I hear work as Ranking Member of the Federal Financial Management subcommittee, a committee that Senator Carper and I have been working in a bipartisan manner once again to solve problems. Medicaid, which is the primary source of health coverage for over 50 million Americans, made an estimated $21.9 billion of our tax dollars in improper payments in 2011. The federal state unemployment insurance programs made an estimated $13.7 billion of improper payments in 2011. SSI made an estimated $4.6 billion in improper payments in 2011. I think if I'm not mistaken, we're looking for $6 billion to pay for the student loan extension. I just referenced almost $38 billion, $39 billion. We need $6 billion. That's it. You know, we spend over $1 billion in payments that are sent to dead people, as I said, $1 billion we pay - can you believe that? - We pay a billion dollars to people that are dead. Billions in payments sent to the wrong recipient, billions in payments where documentation is missing and where the recipient is not using the funds for the intended purpose. All we have to do is being marginally successful, just marginally successful to recover the $6 billion we need to pay for this very important student loan program. When government is so wasteful, raising taxes should not always be the first thing that we look at. How about reestablishing the trust with the American taxpayer, the people that are listening up in the gallery and on TV? Why is it every single time we've got to raise taxes on one particular group or another? This time we're going after the small business orientation the S-corporation owners. My bill is chance to bring people together to find a solution we can all live with. I am willing to work with my colleagues and consider all options the that will allow us to move forward. If we fail to act, we will burden our students who are going to college with an extra $1,000 in student loan interest. Just because we couldn't find a compromise."

Harkin, Barrasso, DeMint

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 08 2012 4:01 PM

Senator Harkin: (2:46 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Here we are, an empty Senate chamber, while families across the country are wondering whether or not they're going to have to come up with more money to pay higher interest rates on their student loans beginning on July 1. It's going to happen unless we take action. We've tried to take action, but, quite frankly, my friends on the other side of the aisle, the Republicans, won't even let us go to the bill. We had our vote here almost three hours ago. We recessed for our different party conferences as we do every Tuesday. And so here we sit without being able to even proceed to the bill because the Republicans have voted against closing down debate and moving to the bill and offering amendments and having an up-or-down vote. This is a pattern that's all too familiar, as we know, over the last few years, more and more filibusters, more and more cloture motions, as they say, to end the debate. It's really unfair to families and students all over America. And here I address my comments to students. They are the ones that are trying to get a higher education because they know that is the pathway, the gateway to the middle class in America. Our young people today know that in the future the jobs of the future are going to require a higher education. They understand that. And so, many are scrambling to try to put together the resources to pay for college So our proposal accomplishes two good things. It closes the tax loophole that's glaring. I should say three things. It closes that loophole. Secondly, it puts more money into Medicare and Social Security trust funds. And third, it helps us keep interest rates low for students in this country. You think that would be a no brainer. I think most people would say that is kind of a no brainer, but our friends on the Republican side refuse to even let us bring the bill up for debate and a vote. Now, they, my Republican friends, have suggested a different way of paying for this. They want to protect those few people in these subchapter S-corporations, very wealthy people, from paying those taxes. They have suggested - the Republicans have suggested instead that we take all the money to pay for keeping the interest rates low out of the prevention and public health trust fund, prevention fund as it's known that is in the Affordable Care Act. Again, it would drain all the money out of it. It would completely eliminate the program."

Senator Barrasso: (3:05 PM)
  • Spoke on the EPA's job-killing regulations.
    • SUMMARY "This administration after nearly four years has failed to get this country and to get our economy moving again. Even worse, as I look at it, this administration seems to be taking steps that appear to be methodically and deliberately sabotaging certain parts of our nation's economy. They're doing this in sectors of the economy that apparently to me they just don't like, and they're doing it by issuing thousands and thousands of pages of red tape on the very people in this country who have in the past successfully created jobs for Americans. This administration has finalized 1,330 rules that have been deemed what's called economically significant. They have proposed over 1,300 additional economically significant rules. So what does this mean, this term economically significant? Well, those are rules that have an annual impact on the economy of $100 million or more. 57 coal-fired power plants have already announced their closure because of the cumulative effect of these rules on just this one industry. The EPA is proposing regulations on whole sectors of the economy, whether it's issuing new storm water regulations for existing buildings to requiring costly clean water act permits. They're doing this for ditches on family farms. Thousands of America's jobs have already been lost, and others are on the chopping block just due to these rules. Not a just law that has been passed but the rules that come out from this administration. Each time that the EPA claims that the benefits of the rules vastly outweigh the costs, but the costs are real in terms of real dollars to the economy and the benefits are unknown. The administration claims that the benefits are in so-called, "saved future health care costs." that's how they define it, saved future health care costs. The EPA and this administration has a history of understating the costs and of overstating in my opinion the benefits. The EPA's math on the benefits and the costs of their rules is not even close to being accurate. Now, this has been verified in testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, on which I serve as a member. The EPA rules that set new burdensome limits on emission pollutants such as mercury and sulfur dioxide. Well, those rules can have serious costs to plants and factories and have to upgrade their facilities with costly equipment or simply close to be under the new standards. New standards. Not the old standards, but new standards. Those reduction yields few quantifiable benefits to the economy, and that's not me saying it. That's the EPA's own models. They admit that the reductions yield very few quantifiable benefits to the economy. The costs are usually significant to the businesses in terms of the actual expenses, as well as to the public, to the people looking for jobs in terms of jobs that are lost. The EPA knows no one would buy into their rules with such high price tags, so in order to inflate the so-called benefits of their rules, the EPA says that as a result of having less emission from plants and factories, there must also be reductions in particulate matter or dust at the same time. Well, they then make the inaccurate conclusion that reductions in the dust will somehow yield billions of dollars in health benefits because folks will have healthier lungs and visit the doctor fewer times. These reductions in dust are often in areas where the dust level today already is well within public health safety standards that are set by the EPA so the folks aren't actually getting sick in those areas anyway. So if people aren't already getting sick in the areas where the EPA is trying to regulate the air, then how is it that they can claim they are going to save billions of dollars and fewer visits to the hospital by reducing the dust levels even fewer than today's safe levels? What we know now is that the EPA is cooking the books."

Senator DeMint: (3:49 PM)
  • Spoke on the Ex-Im bank.
    • SUMMARY "When government stays out of markets, businesses focus on their customers, quality improves, prices fall, and everyone wins. When government steps in, businesses turn their attention from their customers to their congressman and hire influence peddlers instead of innovators. The pace of innovation slows, prices rise and quality suffers. Defenders say the Ex-Im bank is needed because Europe subsidizes their exports. But Europe says the same about our Export-Import bank. We're at a bidding war with other countries for the biggest subsidies. Still, exporters say the cost of doing business in America is too high to compete. I agree. We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, so let's cut taxes. Let's reform our insane $1.75 trillion-per-year regulatory state. Let's reform education and liberate our children from failing schools and create a better-prepared workforce for the future. Let's repeal the government takeover of health care and put an end to predatory lawsuits filed against innocent businesses. In short, let's fix the rules of our game to make all of our exports competitive rather than rigging them for one company or product at a time. Our policies should make the United States the best place in the world to buy, sell, farm, manufacture, patent, invent, invest, innovate, and educate - for everyone in every industry. Look at what today's ad hoc economic policy making has done to America, where a collection of narrow special interests buy for the favoritism of discredited politicians while we mount unsustainable debt onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. That is what I'm against. What I'm for is a level playing field, a set of clear rules that guarantees the freedom of entrepreneurs to make and sell what they want and the freedom of customers to buy what they want. I'm not for big business or big labor. I'm for big freedom for everyone."

Merkley, Schumer, Brown-OH

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 08 2012 5:20 PM

Senator Merkley: (4:42 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise to address the motion to proceed that we're currently debating. A motion to proceed to a bill that would sustain the 3.4% interest rate on Stafford student loans. Now, earlier we had a vote to attempt to conclude the debate over whether we should get to the bill, and that has to have a supermajority of 60 under the rules of the Senate, and we didn't have that supermajority. My colleagues across the aisle voted against debating whether or not to sustain the 3.4% on student loans. Or to put it differently, they voted to block this effort and preserve 6.8% as the rate that we'll go to shortly if we don't address this legislation. Now, I can tell you that I think students at every institution in Oregon would be appalled that the U.S. Senate isn't willing to hold a debate over the doubling of the cost of student loans. This has a tremendously powerful impact on the affordability of education across America. We are at that point in the history of the world where nations are interconnected, we have a global knowledge economy, and the nations that prepare their children well not only will have the best future for those individual children but will have the best economy down the road. So what is the impact of doubling the cost of student loans? Well, certainly for many students, it means that they will not complete their education. They are facing diminished job prospects, they are facing expensive tuition. There is only so many part-time jobs that they can take while still attempting to complete their coursework and at some point they say, you know, the burden, it's too heavy, the debt burden is too heavy. The hurdles are too high. And then we all lose. Our children lose the opportunity to fulfill their potential, to pursue their dreams, and our economy loses because we are not the best prepared around the world. Indeed, across America, we are becoming the first generation of parents whose children are getting less education than we got. I would like to see that debated on the floor of the senate. I'd like to hear a senator stand up and say they are proud of the fact that America is failing its children."

Senator Schumer: (4:53 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The average private college cost a year is over $30,000, and the average public cost has gone way up with all the cutbacks at the federal, state and local levels, is about $17,000. And if you just figure that out, if you're an average family anywhere in America making $65,000 or $70,000 a year, after you pay your taxes, pay your mortgage, pay for the necessities of life, is a heck of a lot of money. And so wisely, the federal government has provided some loans and a few years ago, under the leadership of Senator Kennedy, we decided to have the federal government pay for those loans because when the banks did it, it ended up being far more expensive than it had to be. And those loans originally were at 6.8% around when the banks did it and they went down and down and down. And they settled to a nice level of 3.4%. 3.4% is still interest, particularly these days it's not such a low rate of interest given that the cost of money is quite low, but it's a lot better than 6.8%. But, unfortunately, the law that Senator Kennedy shepherded and many of us voted for and president bush signed - I believe it was in 2007 - expires come July 1. What will that mean? That will mean that millions of students throughout America will pay a lot more interest on the loans that are a necessity for going to college. Now, we all know how important college is. We all know these days that statistics show that the unemployment rate among college grads is one-third that of high school grads. We know that your income level, you make hundreds of thousands of dollars more each year if you have a college degree It was amazing to me that so many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle said they were against keeping the rate at 3.4%. Now, they began to get a lot of flak, I'm sure, from families across the country. And so they decided they couldn't be against it, per se. So in the House they actually - the President was making a lot of hey with this and scoring a lot of points. And so over in the House they then decided, okay, we can't say we're against this. And of course we all want a pay-for. And so we'll propose a bill that pays for it by cutting preventive services in health care. There are two points about that. One, our preventive services in health care are needed. Whether it's immunization, whether it's diabetes prevention, the fastest-growing disease around; whether it's mammograms, which wouldn't start this year but would start next year as a result of the prevention money. Prevention is vital to keeping health care costs down and keeping America healthy. And to say the only way we'll give you student loans is take away preventive health care, it's like telling a family, your little grandson can't get immunization if you want your children to be able to pay for their college. It just doesn't make sense. And everyone knew it. The second point is, everyone knew it at the time. I don't think there was a person in this town who thought that with paying pour it by cutting prevention that it would have a chance in this body. But, frankly, I think that's what some of my colleagues in the other House wanted. Their M.O. lately for the last year and a half has been obstruct without fingerprints."

Senator Brown-OH: (5:07 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Senate is on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, with the time until 7:00 PM equally divided (without objection).
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "A Republican president and Democrats in the House and Senate and Republicans in the House and Senate - but democratic majorities froze interest rates for college Stafford subsidized student loans at 3.4% for five years. All we want to do is continue this. We want to continue it by closing a tax loop hole . one political party who doesn't seem very enthusiastic about freezing these rates anyway, seem to be standing in the way ... In my state, and I know the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the presiding officer's state, is not much different than that. The average four-year student in Ohio owe graduate with a $27,000 accumulated debt from their four years in college. That means that those students will have more difficulty, probably won't be able to buy home, probably won't be able to have to delay it, get married, start a family, start a business and we have no moral - I just think it's really immoral for us to pile more debt on top of what they already have. If we want to build a prosperous society, the way we did with the G.I. bill provided opportunity for millions of students in the 1940's and 1950's, young men and women returning from the war. It not just helped those millions of students, it lifted up society as a whole. It create add much more vital society because we helped so many individuals with the G.I. bill in those days. This is comparable to that. We not only helped these individual young men and women who want to go to community college or want to go to college, they want to go to school, they simply can't - they just can't - we can't load up this much debt on them."

May 08 2012 6:47 PM

Senator Durbin: (5:42 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "This is one those few issues where both President Obama and Governor Romney agree. Don't let the interest rate go up from 3.4% to 6.8%. So today we called a motion to proceed, which literally means that we would begin debate on the student loan interest rate bill to keep it at 3.4% and not let it double July 1. We heard from both sides of the aisle that everyone agreed we had to do this. Sounded pretty easy. Then the vote was called, and at the end of the vote, not one single Republican senator would vote to proceed to the debate on the bill. Not one. Senator Snowe voted present. Every other Republican senator voted no. Those who were present voted no. How did this become a partisan issue? We have President Obama and Governor Romney agreeing, most Americans agreeing we don't want the cost of student loans to go up and it falls flat on its face on the floor at noon today. Not a single Republican would vote for it. I don't understand it. They say we don't like the way you pay for it. It costs $6 billion to lower this interest rate that we would otherwise collect. Well, we pay for it by changing the tax code and closing a tax loophole used by accountants and attorneys under subchapter S-corporations to avoid paying the regular income tax on their income. They go through this S-corporation, call income dividends and don't pay the regular income tax rate and don't pay the withholding tax that ordinary income is subjected to. I think it's reasonable, it produces $6 billion, it pays for the interest rate to stay down. I can accept that. Some on the Republican side of the aisle say no, that is a tax increase and they, many of them, have categorically have said we will never ever, ever, vote for a tax increase no matter what it is. So they walked away from the Student Loan bill. They say we have a better way to do it. Senator Reid came to the floor, the Democratic Majority Leader, he said fine, we'll call the bill and you offer your way to do it. Pay for it a different way. Bring it up for a debate. Let both sides debate it. Then let's vote on it and then let's move forward. No. They wouldn't accept it. They all voted against proceeding to the bill. For anyone who is following what's going on here, this is what's known as a filibuster."
  • Spoke on for-profit schools.
    • SUMMARY "These for-profit schools are inundating the internet and recruiting young people who otherwise might not go to college, many of them, remember these three numbers. 10% of kids graduating from high school in the United States end up this these for-profit schools. So what for-profit schools are looking for are young people who are in lower-income family categories because they qualify for the most federal assistance. Pell grants, federal student loans. 10% of the students at the for-profit schools, and 25% of all federal aid to education goes to these schools. More than two and a half times based on the number of students the amount you might imagine. But hang on. It gets more challenging. Almost half of the student loan defaults in America come from for-profit schools. Why? The kids get too deeply in debt, they end up dropping out because the debt is overwhelming, or they finish and get a worthless diploma and can't find a job. That is the story. So the student debt in traditional schools, public universities, private, not for-profit universities is one thing. On the for-profit side of things the debt is just mounting particularly through private student loans and here's the kicker - and you know this, because you've studied this issue, too. Student loans are the only private loans in America, the only ones, not dischargeable in bankruptcy. What it means is you're carrying it for a lifetime."
  • Spoke on the DREAM Act.
    • SUMMARY "If you graduate high school and you have no serious problems when it comes to convictions or moral issues, and you either complete service in the military or two years in college, we will put you on a path, a long path, toward becoming legal and becoming a citizen. That's the DREAM Act. So the DREAM Act has been here for 11 years. I've tried to pass it on the floor repeatedly. I can get 50-plus votes. I have last time I called it. But the Senate has this magic number of 60, super majority. It's even passed the House of Representatives. I've never been able to put 60 votes together here. And over the years, the support from the other side of the aisle has been decreasing. As it decreases, it gets more difficult. Over the years as well, a lot of people have stepped up and spoken up on behalf of this DREAM Act. Colin Powell said we'd love to have these young people in our military. Secretaries of Defense, like Secretary Gates, have said the same thing. President Obama was cosponsor of the bill. These are young, talented people who can make a difference."

Senator Stabenow: (6:18 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise to express deep concern on behalf of families, students all across Michigan who are very, very upset at the vote earlier today where we did not get enough votes the supermajority needed to be able to get beyond the filibuster that's going on the floor by colleagues on the other side of the aisle. And, therefore, we can't actually get to the vote on the bill that would lower or maintain the lower student interest rates, student loan interest rates for students all across America and certainly in Michigan. We know what will happen July 1 if we can't get beyond this. We actually have a majority of members, 53 members. I'm very proud that all of our members on this side of the aisle voted in fact to support the effort to maintain the low student loan interest rate. We didn't have the supermajority because it takes bipartisan votes to be able to get there, to be able to overcome the filibuster on the other side of the aisle. But we have enough votes and we just want to vote. We have enough votes to be able to pass this bill to stop the student loan interest rate hike act. We have enough votes, and we just need the opportunity to be able to vote. And what does this mean for middle-class families, for students in Michigan and all across the country? We're at a time, first of all, when middle-class families are struggling to make ends meet. And no more so than in Michigan where we have gone through the deepest recession for the last decade of anyplace in the country. And we need to be making college more affordable for Michigan students, students across America and their parents. Not less affordable. We ought to be doing things that would actually add to what we've done to support lower interest rates, more access to student loans, not taking that away, which is what's happening right now on the floor of the Senate because of the filibuster that is going on."
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 9:30 AM and resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill. The time will be equally divided, with the Republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the Majority controlling the second 30 minutes.
  • On Tuesday, a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, was entered.
The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 AM Wednesday, May 9th.