Floor Updates

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 09 2012 9:30 AM

The Senate Convened.

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

May 09 2012 10:04 AM

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill. The time until 2:00 PM 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.

Senator Reid: (9:32 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Yesterday the Republicans continued to filibuster our plan to make that not happen. We do not want the rates to double. We don't want them to go up at all. There's 30,000 people in Nevada that are depending on our doing something to reduce those rates. What's worse, in my estimation, I think the American people, is that the Republicans seem proud of blocking this legislation. Not a single Republican voted to allow the debate to go forward. This isn't an issue of saying, okay, if I vote for this, this will be ... They wouldn't even let us go forward on it to debate it. I've said, if they don't like - they've said that they like the bill except they don't like the way it's paid for. Fine, let us get on the bill and offer amendments to pay for it. But, no, every single Republican voted "No." Every single Republican said, we're not going to allow a debate on this. But the American people certainly shouldn't be surprised, because this has been going on for three years. Almost four years. Everything is a fight. They're blocking legislation that would allow us to stop the increase of student loan interest. It's wrong. Now, the person that signed this legislation to make this interest rate such as it is was President Bush. So I hope Republicans will come to their senses and work with us toward compromise, but I am a he not holding my - but I'm not holding my breath. Because as i indicated, they seem proud that they've stopped another piece of legislation. They are all together."
  • Spoke on the House-Republican agenda.
    • SUMMARY "We worked to create jobs and make college affordable, my colleagues, my Republican friends on the other side of the aisle, are operating under a different set of priorities. In the House, for example, there are efforts now under way to undo a hard-fought august agreement to cut more than $2 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. That agreement came after threats by the tea party-driven House and now 40% of the people over here are tea party advocates. And now there are threats to shut down the government. Then they came and they had a big, big thing here for the first time ever to have a knock-down, drag-out fight over weeks and weeks over whether we should increase the debt ceiling in this country. During President Reagan's time as running the country, it was done dozens of times. But, no, nothing these folks will do without a big fight. So as a result of that, we came to an agreement that was bipartisan to reduce the deficit. And the deficit that we couldn't reduce, this - before August of last year, we said, okay, fine. If we don't do something about it this year, then there will be automatic cuts called sequestration. Now, the House is doing everything they can to walk away from the agreement that we made, the bipartisan vote that we took. They're doing everything that they can. They have a Republican budget, the so-called Ryan budget. And now they have something - I also say "so called" because they're trying to make it a reconciliation bill, but they can't do it because they're not following the law to do that. So they not only reneged on this bipartisan, bicameral agreement to reduce spending, but they reflect fundamentally skewed priorities. They hand out even more tax breaks to multimillionaires and shield corporate defense contractors all at the expense of hardworking middle-class ... the elderly and those who can least afford it."

Senator McConnell: (9:54 AM)
  • Spoke on the Obama economy.
    • SUMMARY "The President's policies may have disappointed a health care bill that was supposed to lower costs is causing them to rise. A stimulus bill that was supposed to create jobs was better at generating punch lines. But one of the greatest disappointments of this presidency is the difference between the kind of leader this President said he was and the kind he turned out to be. How did that happen? Well, I think the President just put too much faith in government. Let's face it, there isn't a problem we face that this President didn't think the government could solve. And despite all the evidence to the contrary, he still can't seem to shake the idea that more government is the answer for what ails us. When the stimulus failed, it wasn't government's fault. It was the Republicans'. When the health care bill caused health care costs to rise, same thing. When trillions are spent and jobs don't come, it's ATM machines. It's the weather, it's bankers, it's the rich, it's Fox News, it's anything other than the government. This is why the sickening waste of taxpayer dollars we've seen so many times over the last three years, whether it's at a solar company like Solyndra or at a lavish party that federal bureaucrats threw for themselves in Vegas, it's viewed not as a symptom of a larger problem in Washington but as a problem to be managed, something to acknowledge, to acknowledge and then move beyond. Because they just don't seem to see it. The President seems to view government the way some parents view their children. It can do no wrong. So if there's a problem to solve, a challenge to tackle, the solution is always the same. More government. More government. And the results are always the same. A disappointment to be blamed on somebody, anybody else. I think the President summed it up pretty well during a speech he gave in New York just yesterday. This is what he said. The only way we can accelerate job creation that takes place on a scale that is needed, he said, is bold action from Congress. Really? The only way to accelerate job creation is through congress? Not the private sector? Hasn't the experience of the last three and a half years taught this President anything at all about the limitations of government action? Three and a half years and $5 trillion later, there are nearly a half a million fewer jobs in the country than the day the President took office. That's not what most people would describe as a good return on investment. Yet, that's all we get. The same government-driven solutions he's been pushing for three and a half years. Nearly 13 million Americans who are actively looking for a job can't find one. Millions more have given up looking for a job altogether. As worker participation rate is the lowest it's been in 30 years. And more than half of all college graduates, the best prepared to enter the workforce, can't find a good job. Half of college graduates can't find a job. And this President is proposing the same old ideas that have failed before. Some government action failed? Then just do it again on a larger scale. That's the approach this President has taken. It is his approach still. It is the clearest sign he's literally out of ideas. But he's unwilling to try something different."

Moran, Vitter, Thune

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012 10:30 AM

Senator Moran: (10:04 AM)
  • Spoke on the Start-Up Act.
    • SUMMARY "The Department of Labor reported just last week that more than 12 million Americans are still looking for work and our economy only added 115,000 jobs in April, the lowest number of jobs added in five months. This makes 39 straight months of unemployment rate over 8%. Our first priority in Congress must be to strengthen our economy so more jobs can be created, more Americans can get back to work, and more graduates with pursue their dreams. Data tells us that for close to three decades companies less than five years old have created almost all the new net jobs in America, averaging three million jobs each year. While start-ups provided the gasoline to fuel America's economic engine, new businesses are hiring fewer employees than in the past and make up a smaller share of all companies than in previous years. Data out last week from the census bureau shows that the start-up rate fell to the lowest point on record for new firm births. Given the disproportionate impact new businesses have on the economy, it makes sense to craft policies that help entrepreneurs start businesses and make it easier for these young businesses to grow. A former NASA engineer now in the technology field gave me a useful analogy. He described the process of designing a rocket or an airplane, which there are two forces at play that determine whether the rocket will launch or the plane will fly: thrust and drag. So much of what we want to do around here tends to focus on the thrust, spending money and creating programs, when what we really ought to be doing is focusing on reducing the drag. Rather than spend money on government programs, Congress must and should enact policies that create an environment in which many entrepreneurs and their companies have a better shot at success and putting people to work. Reduce the drag so that the private sector can create jobs. To create this environment where these start-up companies can be successful, I've introduced the Start-Up Act with Senator Warner. The Start-Up Act reforms federal regulatory process to ensure that the cost of compliance does not outweigh the benefits of regulations. The Start-Up Act alters the tax code to create incentives that will facilitate the financing and growth of new businesses. The Start-Up Act stimulates university research so more good ideas move into the marketplace where they can create jobs for men's. And perhaps most importantly, the Start-Up Act helps America win the global battle for talent The Start-Up Act creates entrepreneur visas for foreign entrepreneurs who register a business and employ Americans in the United States. The Start-Up Act also creates a new stem visa for students who graduate with a masters or PhD. In science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Our own Department of Commerce projects that stem jobs will grow by 17% in the years ahead. We have to retain more highly skilled and highly talented, highly educated individuals, the ones we educate in America, for us to remain competitive in a global economy. We need to make sure our own U.S.-born and educated citizens have those job opportunities as well."

Senator Vitter: (10:15 AM)
  • Spoke on the National Flood Insurance Program.
    • SUMMARY "On May 31 the entire National Flood Insurance Program will expire. When the clock strikes midnight that day, it will be gone unless we act. And act we must. This is an important program for the country, in my neck of the woods, in south Louisiana, in particular almost every real estate closing is dependent on this program because those properties need flood insurance for there to be a closing. That's very typical in many other parts of the country. And so here we are trying to get out of a real estate-led recession, trying to bolster the economy, and we're on the verge of letting the entire national flood insurance program expire yet again. What's so frustrating about this is there are not big disagreements about how to get this done. This is not a overly partisan issue. We are not bitterly divided. This is merely an issue of getting floor time in the United States Senate. The House has acted last year in a bipartisan way. The Senate committee on which I serve has acted. I work very closely with my subcommittee chair, Jon tester. We've acted in a bipartisan way. We put together a good five-year reauthorization bill, but we need to move this on and off the Senate floor to get this done before the end of the month. Again I urge the distinguished Majority Leader, Senator Reid, to give this important matter floor time. We all come here and talk about needing to improve the economy. We all come to the floor and talk about jobs. Well, this is absolutely necessary in all of those categories with all of those issues in mind to extend the National Flood Insurance Program. And let's not just put a band-aid on it again and let it limp along with a very short-term extension. Let's do the full five-year reauthorization, which we can do, which is well in sight."

Senator Thune: (10:21 AM)
  • Spoke on the EU ETS.
    • SUMMARY "In 2005 the European Union began their trading scheme which attempts to cap emissions from carbon dioxide from stationery sources within the EU Starting in 2012 civil aviation operators departing from or landing in Europe began to included in this emissions scheme. Under this program, any airline, including non-European airlines, flying into and out of Europe will be required to pay for EU Emissions allowances. This change comes at a time when EU Allowance prices continue to decline to a little over six-year olds and the European commission is considering driving up the prices. Allowances will be for the entirety of the flight including portions in U.S. and international airspace. For example, this means a flight leaving from Los Angeles, California, and flying to London would be taxed on the entirety of their flight, not just the fractional part of the flight that is over EU Airspace. Or to put it another way, you would be taxed as if 100% of your flight was in EU Airspace even though approximately only 7% actually was. That's a flight originating in California here in the United States and flying to London. Very simply, the unilateral imposition of such a scheme on the United States and other countries is arbitrary, unfair, and a violation of international law. Plus it is being done without any guarantees for environmental improvements and at a huge cost to the aviation industry and constituents that we serve here in this country. According to the International Air Transport Association, the economic cost of this program for airlines is expected to be $1.3 billion in 2012. Let me repeat that. $1.3 billion in 2012 and reach as high as $3.5 billion by the year 2020. Those are revenues coming out of the airlines in this country that would be used to pay for this fee, this tax, if you will, imposed by the EU On the United States airspace. By requiring commercial aviation to comply, the EU ETS limits airline capital available for other meaningful purposes including their ability to invest in more fuel efficient engines, alternative sources of fuel in research and development. Let me be clear that no one in congress is against the EU Implementing ETS within their boundaries. However, I believe that any system that includes international and other non-EU airspace must be addressed through the International Civil Aviation Organization, the ICAO policies, of which the United States and 190 countries are members. In fact, under current ICAO standards, the aviation industry is targeted to achieve a 1.5% average annual improvement in carbon and fuel efficiency through 2020 and carbon-neutral growth from 2020 forward. That is why the United States airline industry, those advocates in the industry also agree that a single global approach to greenhouse gas emissions negotiated and set at the ICAO is preferred to the unilateral EU/ETS system."

Harkin, Levin, Webb

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012 11:15 AM

Senator Harkin: (10:32 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I would just remind my colleagues that earlier this year in the budget debate in the House an amendment was offered by Democrats during the House budget process to extend the current rate of 3.4%. That amendment lost by a straight party vote. Instead, the Republicans proposed that they pay for this by taking money from the prevention in public health fund. Now, again, this was not an appropriate solution. Killing the fund that's preventing cancer and preventing unnecessary diseases in the United States. My friends on the other side would have you believe that nothing bad would help if we eliminate the fund. They call it a slush fund. There's no truth to that at all. Elimination of this fund would have disastrous effects on the health of our children and families. To eliminate the prevention in public health fund will cost us hundreds of billions of dollars in the future, taking care of people who have chronic illnesses and chronic diseases and obesity. We know that an investment to immunize our kids, for example, it saves us $16 in saved health care costs. To eliminate this fund would lead to a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases in every state due to the expected loss of vaccines and 1,100 skilled public health workers. So again, eliminating the prevention in public health fund, eliminating vaccines for our kids, eliminating public health workers who know how to deliver these vaccines and respond to outbreaks - we would be losing public health staff at the state and local levels. Eliminating this fund would end support for increased calls to the tobacco quit line, meaning smokers would not have the support to keep that quit line going. And if current smoking rates persist, six million kids living in the United States today will die from smoking, will ultimately die from smoking. We'll be forced, if we eliminate the public health fund and prevention fund, we'll be forced to reduce the ability of mental health services. Eliminating the fund, the prevention fund, as the republicans want to do, would reduce investment in public health laboratory capacity at the state and local levels, thereby reducing the speed with which we can detect and respond to outbreaks and, yes, maybe even terrorist events. It would cut the number of disease detectives that we can deploy. These disease detectives are our first line of defense against infectious diseases. Eliminating this fund would result in the layoff of public health officials in every state and community that are working on chronic disease prevention, immune health care-associated infections and other health problems. And elimination of the prevention fund - again, I use the word elimination. The Republican proposal wouldn't just take some money from the prevention fund, it would kill the prevention fund."

Senator Levin: (10:51 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Republicans have voted against even allowing the United States Senate to begin to debate a bill. Why not debate it? Why not offer relevant amendments? Why not address this important issue? By their filibuster, our republican colleagues have refused to let the senate even start this process. Republicans say that they too want to prevent this increase in student loan interest rates. They differ with us, they say, on how to pay for it. Republicans say the only way they're going to support this legislation to prevent this rate increase is with cuts from a fund that helps to prevent infectious and chronic diseases. Now, the program that republicans seek to eliminate has provided more than $8 million to my state to help fight major health problems such as influenza, diabetes, HIV, heart disease and cervical cancer. These funds even help to provide funding for childhood immunization programs. So what the Republicans propose is this: choose between helping college students and their families and helping to prevent expensive and debilitating health problems. Choose between education and health care. Choosing to allow more health problems in order to help students and their families is not a choice at all. Democrats are offering a different alternative. We recognize that the tax code is full of loopholes and special breaks that allow some individuals and some corporations to avoid paying taxes. In this case what's identified as a tax break, it allows some professional service providers, such as lawyers, to avoid paying their payroll taxes by organizing their businesses as so-called S-corporations and then paying themselves in the form of dividends instead of salaries. The Government Accountability Office recently examined this issue and found widespread problems costing taxpayers and the treasury billions of dollars each year in uncollected revenues. What our bill would do is require that professional service providers with incomes above $250,000 a year pay payroll taxes on the income that they derive from these S-corporations. We would use the revenues from closing that loophole with those with incomes above $250,000 to prevent the interest rate hike that's going to hit middle-income families."

Senator Webb: (10:58 AM)
  • Spoke on the constitutionality of military authorization.
    • SUMMARY "It was in the decades following Vietnam that our constitutional process seems to have broken apart. Year by year, skirmish by skirmish, the role of the congress in determining where the United States military would operate and when the awesome power of our weapons systems would be unleashed has diminished. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, especially with the advent of special operations forces and remote bombing capabilities, the Congress seems to have faded into operational irrelevance. Congressional consent is rarely discussed. The strongest debate surround the rather irrelevant issue of whether the Congress has even been consulted. We have now reached the point that the unprecedented and, quite frankly, contorted constitutional logic used by this administration to intervene in Libya on the basis of what can most kindly be called a united nations standard of humanitarian intervention was not even the subject of a full debate or a vote on the Senate floor. Such an omission and the precedent it has set now requires us to accept one of two uncomfortable alternatives. Either we as a legislative body must reject this passivity and live up to the standards and the expectations regarding presidential power that were laid down so carefully by our founding fathers, or we must accept a redefinition of the very precepts upon which this government was founded. This is not a political issue. We would be facing the exact same constitutional challenges no matter the party of the president, and in fact unless we resolve this matter, there is no doubt that we someday will. The conflict in the balance of power between the President and the Congress has always been an intrinsic part of our constitutional makeup. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution provides that the Congress alone has the power to declare war. Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that the President shall serve as commander in chief. In the early days of our republic, these distinctions were clear, particularly since we retained no large standing army during peacetime and since Article 1, Section 8 also provides that the congress has the power, and I quote, to raise and support armies. A phrase that expressed the clear intent of the framers that large ground forces were not to be kept during peacetime but instead were to be raised at the direction of the Congress during a time of war. Our history confirms this as our armies demobilized again and again once wars were completed. Only after World War II did this change when our rather reluctant position as the world's greatest guarantee of international stability required that we maintain a large standing military force, much of it in Europe and in Asia, ready to respond to crises whose immediacy could not otherwise allow us to go through the lengthy process of mobilization in order to raise an army and because of that reality made the time-honored process of asking the Congress for a former declaration of war in some cases But any proposition can be carried to a ridiculous extreme. The fact that some military situations have required our Presidents to act immediately before then reporting to the congress does not have and of itself give the President a blanket authority to use military force whenever and wherever he decides to, even where Americans are not personally at risk and even where the vital interests of our country have not been debated and clearly defined. This is the ridiculous extreme that we have now reached I have been working for several months to construct a legislative solution to this paralysis. The legislation would recognize that modern circumstances require an adroit approach to the manner in which our foreign policy is being implemented, but it would also put necessary and proper boundaries around a President's discretion when it comes to so-called humanitarian interventions. Where we and our people are not being directly threatened. My legislation requires that in any situation where American interests are not directly threatened, the President must obtain former approval by the congress before introducing American military force. This legislation will also provide that debate on such a request must begin within days of the request and that a vote must proceed in a timely manner."

Begich, Gillibrand, Alexander

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012 11:43 AM

Senator Begich: (11:14 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Democratic pay-for, the majority's pay-for was to close a tax loophole used by high-income earners, lawyers, consult ands, no disrespect to their field but they use the system to avoid paying Medicare taxes that all of us pay. I mean all of us that sit here in this chamber and the people who work at the restaurant outside here and the people who drive the bus and everyone else pays that tax. But they use this to organize under an s corporation. It's a technical term under the IRS code that allows those profits to go right to the individual. So they decide instead of taking it as a wage, they take it as profit or dividend, thus avoiding Medicare taxes. That all of us pay. Getting a free ride. I heard on the floor yesterday, a bump of new taxes. These aren't new taxes. These are taxes that are owed. They just found a loophole, again, consultants, lobbyists, lawyers, who weave their way through the writing of the laws and they probably wrote them, actually they did if you look at the history of this. They wrote the law so they could avoid the Medicare taxes that everyone else has to pay. So when I heard people saying it's the restaurant owner, the retailer, the plumber, that's a bunch of baloney. That is so misinforming the public, it's unbelievable. I know this. Because as a former retailer, who had an S-corporation, we pay our taxes. We pay with a wage. We pay it all. This loophole is clearly - all you have to do is looking at it. They have to meet three standards. Modified gross income above 250,000 for joint filers, 200,000 for individuals, and shareholder and S-corporation that derives 75% or more of gross revenues from services of three or fewer shareholders, services defined as lobbying, law, engineering, architect, accounting, actuarial science, which is a science, performing arts, athletes, brokerage services. I'm looking here, I don't see it. Doesn't say retailers. Doesn't say the mom and pop folks working every day. They pay their taxes. So for members to come down here and trick the public, because that's what they did. They convoluted the words because are people are getting the sound bites, the ten seconds, saying it's going to raise new taxes and cause all these small businesses not to hire. Baloney. This is not lawyers, lobbyists, and consultants who wrote the law to make sure they didn't have to pay a dime. That's what it's about. For people to come down here and say we're going to raise the interest rate on hard-working families who are trying to get their kids through college is unbelievable. I hope we take this up again."

Senator Gillibrand: (11:28 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise to call on my colleagues for a solution to the impending student debt crisis. Yesterday we had a chance to stand with millions of young Americans all across our country by investing in their future and preventing these interest rates from doubling on Stafford loans in just 52 days from now. But instead, our colleagues across the aisle chose to stand in the way of a commonsense proposal. As a result seven million students are facing higher interest rates that will cost them each an extra thousand dollars a year in interest for their pushing access to a quality higher education out of reach for too many and sadly others with unmanageable debt when they get out of college and join the work force ... When we price young people out in college education, we all are going to pay the price. When we limit their opportunity, we rob ourselves of those future engineers, biologists and small business owners. America's ability to lead the economy relies on our ability to out educate the global competition. Let's open doors to higher education to anyone who's willing to work for it, and let's keep it affordable. Let's reward hard work and responsibility instead of risk-taking. There is no excuse for an action. So let's have a real debate in good faith to solve this problem we know is within our reach. Students and families across America can't afford any more delay."

Senator Alexander: (11:32 AM)
  • Spoke on charter schools.
    • SUMMARY "Let me begin by explaining exactly what a charter school is because sometimes we stand up and start talking without explaining the subject. A charter school is the Memphis Academy for Science and Engineering. I visited there three or four years ago. It was during spring break. During spring break, most of the students in Memphis were somewhere else, but not in the Memphis Academy for Science and Engineering. These were sophomores studying advanced placement biology. These were children who had been in other schools the year before that were deemed to be low-performing schools. In other words, these were among the students in Memphis least likely to succeed. But they have been fortunate. They have been allowed to go to this charter school. Their parents had chosen the school. And here's what was different about it. The union rules, the state rules and the federal rules had been relaxed so that the teachers had the freedom to do in that school what they thought those children needed. In this case, many of these children didn't have as much at home as other children do, so the teachers decided the school ought to be open 12 hours a day and it ought to be open on Saturday morning and it ought to be open more weeks a year. And they were there, as I said, on spring break studying advanced placement biology which is not what many sophomores do anywhere in this country. And these children were succeeding. The school was able to pay some teachers more than others. It was able to have some classes that are larger than others. It meant that some scheduled classes were longer than others. And some children got special attention. You may say, well, that makes so much common sense, why aren't they able to do that in every public school in America? And that's a very good question. Because in a way, every one of our 100,000 public schools in America should be a charter school in the sense that the real definition of a charter school is one that gives teachers the freedom to use their own good sense and judgment to deal with the children whose parents choose to send to that school So the question often is asked: Well, are charter schools really helping students? And in some ways the jury is still out. Charter schools are relatively new, and there are many factors that go into the success of a student in a school. The number-one factor being what happens at home. But there are good, encouraging indications. A study by Stanford university found two-thirds of the charter schools in Tennessee are improving student performance in reading and math at a faster rate than competing traditional district public schools. 67% of charter schools in Tennessee have been improving the overall growth of their students for the last three years. But that means that 30% of the schools included students who weren't performing as well or were performing worse. So the fact of the matter is that not every charter school is going to be successful. Not every start-up business is successful. But we have a model in our country that reminds us of what can happen when we have autonomous institutions where administrators and teachers have the privilege of using their own judgment and common sense to make things happen and we call that higher education."

Reed, Alexander, Wyden

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012 12:14 PM

Senator Reed: (11:42 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We need to address college costs, but having the federal government double the interest it charges to students, particularly low and moderate income students, is not the solution. In fact, it complicates the problem dramatically. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle say they want to stop this from happening. Governor Romney, the presumptive nominee, says he wants to stop this from happening. Yet they are blocking moving forward on these issues, so they can offer to pay for the procedures for what we agree to stop the doubling effect. They are blocking debate because they refuse as much as on an ideological basis and a practical basis to change the tax code, to close a loophole that is egregious and should be closed in order to allow us to help middle-class families. I think they have taken this pledge with respect to no new taxes to a degree that defeats practical, pragmatic solution to a problem that they know has to be solved and has to be solved before July 1. This decision is fairly clear. It's a choice between allowing young people to get their college degree or is it obedience to a pledge never, ever to raise anything that Grover Norquist says is connected remotely to attacks. Unfortunately, this simplicity is undercutting the hopes and dreams of thousands of American students, and that's what it's coming down to. One of the other ironies in this debate is that what we propose to do closing this subchapter S loophole for high wage earners and professional endeavors is something that has long been criticized by conservatives. In the 2004 presidential campaign, the late conservative columnist Robert Novak described the subchapter S loophole as "one of the last loopholes left in the internal revenue service code, and it is a big one." I don't think anyone would accuse the late Robert Novak as being anything but staunchly conservative in all of his views. The Wall Street Journal calling out former Senator John Edwards on the use of this loophole in 2004 called it a quote clever tax dodge. So, again, we have a clever tax dodge pitted against helping students go to college. Helping students go to college should win."

Senator Alexander: (11:50 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • If you're a student and you already have a student loan, what we're talking about has nothing to do with you. In other words, your rate is not going up. What we're talking about only affects new loans. So before you think about not going to college next year because of all this talk about student loan rates going up, that's not a problem. We're only talking about new loans. Second, for 60% of the students who get new loans, we're not talking about you either. So you don't have to worry about student loan rates going up. And third, for those of you whom we are talking about, the 40% who have these subsidized student loans, what we're talking about saving you is $7 a month in interest payments over the next ten years. $7 a month can add up, which is why Governor Romney as well as President Obama, Republicans as well as Democrats, want to keep the rate at the rate it is now, 3.4% for another year, but it's $7 a month. It's important to know that. It's also important to know that there is an easy way to get this done. The House of Representatives has already passed a bill that would keep the 3.4% at the current level for new loans for these 40% of the loans for one more year. So all the Majority Leader has to do is bring up the House-passed bill and enact it. In other words, we agree. We only have a difference of opinion about how to pay for it. I have an alternative supported by most Republicans which is the same as the House bill, which simply says we want to keep the rate where it is, 3.4%, and we want to do the logical thing to pay for it. We want to give back to students the money that the government is taking from them to help pay for the health care bill. You may think what in the world does the health care bill have to do with student loans? That's what we thought, that's what we thought when the health care law came up. So what our friends on the other side did during the health care law was take over the whole student loan program and turn the United States Secretary of Education into the United States Banking Commissioner, almost. He has the job of making $100 billion of new student loans every year. The idea was the government can make it better than the banks. Our friends on the other side said to the students the banks are overcharging you, we're going to take it over and we'll be doing you a favor. Well, what did our friends do? They did take it over. They didn't do the students a favor. According to the Congressional Budget Office, there was $61 billion of savings, money that the students shouldn't have been paying, I suppose. When we took it over. And what did the Democrats do? They spent it, all except for $10 billion, and they spent $8.7 billion helping to pay for the health care law. So the way the Congressional Budget Office looks at it, $61 billion in savings resulted from - and these are my words - borrowing money at 2.8% and loaning it to students at 6.8%. We want to take that profit, that overcharging the students, give it back to students. That's the way to pay for the 3.4% that we're talking about."

Senator Reed: (11:55 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "The House in the Ryan budget maintains this increase, this doubling of interest rates. They foresaw, anticipated and supported the increase to 6.8%. Only recently have they apparently had a change of heart and decided that that is not appropriate. The other aspect I think that's interesting to note about the House is that they have proposed significant reductions in tax rates and they have said they will pay for it by closing loopholes. This is one of the most egregious loopholes that you can find and yet of course they won't use this to pay for something which makes a great deal of sense, which they now agree there should be no doubling of the student interest rate. The Senator is absolutely right. This doubling will not apply to loans that are outstanding. It will apply to loans going forward. But if we establish the principal which was embedded in the House Ryan budget which I think was supported by most if not all of my colleagues on the other side, that this rate is gift going to be doubling to 6.8% going forward, that will be a significant impact on students that have years to go in college, on people who are contemplating going to college, and so the $6 or $7 it may be per month becomes significant overall. Again, we can get into a discussion about where does this money come from ultimately in terms of was it part of funds for health care, et cetera, but we are facing the choice today of closing an egregious loophole that benefits the wealthiest Americans, that benefits people. It is being criticized by the Wall Street Journal, criticized by Robert Novak, the late columnist, and helping students or practically going in and targeting prevention programs that again I think conceptually we would agree, if we don't get a handle on prevention, diabetes, of cancer, of diseases that are costing us billions and billions of dollars, then our tasks of dealing with health care will be immensely more difficult. And so it's very clear, but what is also very clear is I think procedurally the answer is quite straightforward. Let's get on to the bill."

Senator Wyden: (11:58 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "This legislation allows us to achieve two important objectives. First, it puts us in a position to hold the line on student debt. If our a sophomore, for example, if college, and you've already incurred some debt, you're thinking about finishing college, you'd like to get a degree in a field where you could get a job that pays a good wage, without this legislation, you are going to incur still more debt. So this legislation ought to be supported because it holds the line on debt, and by doing so, it helps us achieve a very important objective with respect to opportunity for young people. And that is it increases the opportunity for young people to access higher education across the country. And whether historic - historically whether it's been Pell grants or Stafford loans and the like, we know that it's been important, and families around kitchen tables and living rooms have said this for years, we've always said to young people try to get to college. Work hard in high school, try and get to college, we'll support here in our country policies that increase access to a good education. And by holding the line on debt, we take steps to achieve an important part of higher education policy, and that is expanding access to higher education. The second part of this legislation in my view is by holding the line on debt, you increase the opportunity for young people to get more value out of their education. And the reason I bring this up, is my sense is that future policy in the higher education field is going to be about marrying these two objectives. Let's support this important legislation, S. 2343 to expand access, and use it as a foundation to move on to the next step of education policy, which is to get more value out of the education that a young person pursues."

Hagan, Bingaman-NM, Barrasso, Kerry, Durbin

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012 1:37 PM

Senator Hagan: (12:10 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I'm disappointed that partisan gamesmanship is threatening the financial futures of students in North Carolina and around the country. In North Carolina we are very proud of our 16 excellent public universities and 58 outstanding community colleges. In addition, dozens of the best private colleges and universities in the nation also call North Carolina home. Our excellence in higher education sets North Carolina apart. Business owners I talk to routinely tell me that our highly educated and highly skilled work force is what attracted their companies to North Carolina. And there is no doubt that the strength of our economy going forward depends on the continued system of our education, on the continued strength of our education system. However, the cost of college continues to rise in North Carolina and across the country. And if congress does not act before July 1, more than 160,000 North Carolina students will be saddled with an additional $1,000 in student loan debt. According to the project on student debt, more than half of North Carolina's 300,000 students at four-year colleges and universities borrow money to pay for their education. And on average, these students graduate with more than $21,000 in debt. That debt has real consequences for our graduates and for North Carolina's economy. With this debt to pay off, young entrepreneurs are less likely to take a chance starting a small business, they're less likely to buy a new car, less likely to buy a home. This only hurts our economy. Keeping interest rates low will go a long way to ensuring that young people can afford their student loan payments when they graduate ... Our students deserve a fighting chance when they graduate. We shouldn't put them thousands of dollars behind before they even reach the starting line. I will do my part to ensure students in North Carolina have the chance to thrive after graduating, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation that will prevent student interest rate loans from doubling."
Senator Bingaman-NM: (12:33 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Democrats have proposed to pay for the legislation by closing a tax loophole that people use to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes. That is the so-called S-Corporation payroll tax loophole. This proposal would close the loophole for S-Corporations for which 75% of the corporation's income is attributable to the sources of three or four shareholders. This loophole allows, for example, an individual lawyer or a lobbyist who set up an S-Corporation to make millions of dollars in fees and to not pay payroll taxes on nearly all of that income. All he has to do is to give himself a cash dividend from the corporation instead of paying himself wages, and this is not a fair arrangement. To be clear, not all small businesses are gaming the system in this way and are not permitted to game the system in this way. This loophole is not available to businesses that are organized as sole proprietorships or as partnerships. Those small businesses are paying their fair share of taxes. By contrast, to this way of paying for the continuation of the low interest on student loans, my Republican colleagues have opted for a very different approach. They offset the cost by using the prevention and public health fund. In my view, this is a misguided approach. The prevention fund is not a slush fund as it has been called by many. Instead, it is a fund to help reduce chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease and to fund immunization programs for children. This is a critical fund that is used to lower long-term health costs to improve health outcomes. In my view, eliminating this fund would simply increase health risks and ultimately increase health care costs in this country. It's very clear that Democrats and Republicans have a fundamental difference in our approach to how we should maintain student loan interest rates. However, as I said before, it is important we get to the bill. We proceed to vote for cloture on this bill so we can discuss the path forward and consider amendments, if individual senators wish to propose amendments. Preparing students for an education is essential for this country's global competitiveness. It is imperative we provide students the tools they need to succeed in this very fast-changing economy. This includes access to a high-quality education which will enable us to train the next generation of Americans for jobs in high technology fields."

Senator Barrasso: (12: 48 PM)
  • A Doctor's Second Opinion.
    • SUMMARY "I come to the floor today to say that instead of helping Americans prevent health problems, the President's new law actually uses this so-called prevention fund as a Washington slush fund. In fact, the new health law provided about $15 billion for this fund from 2010-2019, and then beyond that, about $2 billion every year in annual appropriation of funds received to go toward this same slush fund. Forever. $2 billion a year forever According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, eliminating the prevention fund would save about $13.5 billion over the next ten years. The fact is, Congress already funds many prevention programs, prevention programs with a proven track record of Success. Examples include cancer prevention, tobacco prevention, host of other problems. So Republicans have supported and will continue to support these critical prevention programs: cancer prevention, tobacco prevention, working on heart disease. However, the record is clear that the so-called prevention fund in the health care law is wasteful and duplicative. It doesn't help the people stay well or become well. Now, Senator Alexander from Tennessee has introduced legislation that would eliminate this slush fund and use the savings to maintain student loan interest rates at 3.8%. Under current law, students who receive subsidized Stafford student loans will see their rates increase shortly to 6.8%. Now, unless, of course, Congress acts, and I'm ready to act. Whether you're Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative, people generally agree that preventing this rate increase is an important priority. The difference, is how do we pay for it? The Majority Leader wants to raise taxes on small business owners. He says that is the better way forward. I disagree. There is a better way forward than raising taxes on the people who create jobs in this country at a time when we have over 8% unemployment and last month's job numbers are abysmal. Only 125,000 new jobs created but almost three times that many people quit looking for jobs completely. So for every new one job, three people quit looking for jobs at all. So to raise taxes on people who are creating jobs in this country is the wrong way to go. Senator Alexander's proposal stops the rate increase, which we all want to do, by eliminating this prevention slush fund. His bill uses the rest of the funding for deficit reduction. And I've cosponsored that legislation. I think it's also important to know that the president, President Obama, has already agreed to use his slush fund to offset other spending."

Senator Kerry: (12:58 PM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "What's really interesting is our colleagues who keep coming to the floor and saying repeal the health care bill, repeal the health care bill, never offer an alternative to Americans. I mean, I hope Americans who are sort of buying into this notion that somehow the health care bill doesn't serve them because they're angry about one thing or fact, if you were to repeal the health care bill - and they have no alternative to replace it - here are just some of the things that happen. Number one, you immediately add $2 trillion to the deficit of our nation. $2 trillion - bang, done deal. That goes right away because the health care bill is judged by the CBO to reduce the deficit. It has savings, specific savings, in it. And if you get rid of it, those savings go away and, bang, the deficit goes up. That's number one. Number two, 47 million, 50 million-some Americans who have no health care, or who didn't have it before the bill, will return to the status of having no health care. Now, if everybody in America thinks it's better to have 50 million-some Americans walking around without health care who walk into a hospital or get hit by a car or have an accident and go to the hospital, they're getting care and everybody's paying for it but they're paying for it in the most inefficient way possible. And so the burden is being paid for by people who have the health care. It goes into their premiums. It isn't shared by people buying their insurance and sharing the risk of getting sick. So all of a sudden you get rid of the health care bill, you return America to the days when millions of Americans had no care and guess what happens when they have no care? They jam the emergency rooms because that's the only place to go to get the care, the emergency room becomes your place of primary care. They don't answer that question. They never deal with reality. They deal with politics, with ideology, and they throw a lot of baloney at people. The fact is that if you got rid of the health care bill, all those people who used to get sick and get a letter from their insurance company saying, gee, sorry to hear you have terminal cancer but you're not covered, that's what happened all the time in America. People were thrown off of policies they've been paying for years and all of a sudden they have no coverage. They don't answer that. Then there's another issue: preexisting conditions. Again and again and again people would be denied the ability to buy health care coverage because they had a preexisting condition of some kind."
  • Paid tribute to Senator Lugar.

Senator Durbin: (1:25 PM)
  • Paid tribute to Senator Lugar.
  • Paid tribute to Senator Kirk.
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Senate is on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, with the time until 5:00 PM equally divide (without objection).

Cardin, Lautenberg, Enzi, Udall-NM, Coons

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012 2:55 PM

Senator Cardin: (1:33 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We cannot allow the interest costs to go up. It will affect seven million students and their families. We already have too much college debt families have to incur as a result of the cost of college education. We are not competitive with the rest of the world. We look at countries that we compete with and we look at the cost of higher education in their country, compared to what our students have to endure, we start off behind because of the enormous cost to a family to be able to afford a college education for their children. We know how important it is. You need to have a college degree in order to be competitive in many fields today. And that number of fields are increasing every day. Well, let me tell you, we have crossed the $1 trillion mark in debt held by families in order to afford a college education. Two-thirds of that debt are held by people who are under 30 years of age. Here they are trying to start out in life, trying to have a family, trying to buy a home, trying to do things, and they start off with this large amount of debt. College debt now exceeds credit card debt in America. It's not unusual for a person graduating from a college to have $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, 50,000, $100,000 in debt and even higher. If we do not act by July 1, the interest rate will add to that burdensome amount of. The cost of college education in America is too expensive. If we want to be competitive, we've got to get the cost of college education down. The president in his state of the union address talked about ways we can encourage colleges and universities to be more affordable for the American public. But one thing that we can do is to make sure the cost of borrowing is not increased. That's why it's particularly important that we pass this legislation. It is affecting families' decisions as to what schools children will attend because of the high cost. We have - we are just turning our economy around, starting to make our recovery. And now families are struggling to figure out how they're going to be able to afford college education. We need to reduce the cost, not increase the cost to families. We need a trained workforce. We need to be competitive internationally."

Senator Lautenberg: (1:51 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The cost of tuition at public universities is higher by 37% more than just ten years ago. Think about that. The college ten years ago cost $40,000. It now costs over - well over $50,000. And as a result, more and more students are taking on massive loans that will plague them for years. I use the word plague because it's very difficult to get started in life and business and family and be facing heavy debt at the same time. 66% of New Jersey students graduate with loan indebtedness. The average loan burden for New Jersey graduates is more than $23,000. So no wonder we hear that technology companies are hungry to hire but can't always find people with the education and skills that they need. The price tag alone puts college out of reach for too many people. And the clock is ticking on even higher college costs. Unless congress acts, interest rates on many student loans are going to double on July 1, less than two months from today. For many students, doubling rates will cost them a thousand dollars a year more for each year of college, but instead of standing with students, our friends on the Republican side are playing politics. Now, they have made it clear that keeping student loan rates low is a priority. They don't see it as something being worthwhile. Two Republican senators have introduced budget proposals that would allow student loan interest rates to double. And yesterday, we saw 44 senate Republicans vote to prevent the Senate from even considering our bill, from getting to work on it to keep student loan rates low. How heartless, how thoughtless it is to punish our country this way. College is already too expensive. Why would we put up obstacles to get an education? ... Now our Republican friends say they want to prevent the doubling of interest rates, so why don't they step up to the plate? I don't understand that. Say one thing on one hand, oh, yeah, we don't want to increase the rates. On the other hand, we're not going to help keep them at the lower rate that they are now. They say in order to pay for keeping rates low for students, we have to cut vital funding for programs that keep people healthy, that provide answers for them when they're ill. Or when they need help for their physical condition. Their bill would slash funding for prevention and public health funds. Programs dedicated to stop devastating diseases before they occur. Chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, take more than a million lives every year and account for 75% of our nation's health spending. But that's why prevention and public health funds has invested $226 million to reduce chronic illnesses. The President's budget also calls for using this program to protect women's health by providing breast and cervical cancer screenings to low-income women. But it won't happen if Republicans continue along their way. The Republican bill would also cripple programs that keep kids from smoking and help smokers to quit Republicans don't care about educating people on the dangers of smoking. Who are they protecting here? Certainly not our children and certainly not our students. It's unconscionable. Republicans profess that they want to keep loan rates low but only if we sacrifice programs that protect children from smoking addiction and help women avoid breast cancer and other deadly diseases. The democrats have a better solution. The bill that Majority Leader Reid has introduced pays for keeping student loan rates low by eliminating a tax convenience that millionaires and billionaires use to avoid paying payroll taxes. But rather than choose to close this loophole, the republicans choose to take this opportunity to talk it to death. They would rather see interest rates double for students than force the wealthy to pay their fair share of the country's obligation. Student loans open the door to opportunities. Interest rates have to be kept low to protect graduates from a mountain of debt."

Senator Enzi: (2:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We've been listening to these speeches for the last couple of days. Three days, actually. And if you listen to the other side of the aisle you'd think that Republicans were against college education. I don't think there's a person in America that believes that. You'd also believe that we want to raise the interest rates from 3.4% to 6.8%. There shouldn't be anybody in America that believes that, either. We really think that the rates for one year ought to stay at the 3.4% rate and maybe even beyond that. But the real issue isn't the interest rate and you can tell that from the speeches given. The real issue is the cost of college. Are we doing anything about the cost of college? No. Does Congress have anything to do besides debate this particular issue? Evidently not. We're being called the do-nothing Congress, but evidently we don't have anything else to do. It would be possible to go to something else but instead we had one vote on this, we still weren't given an option for this side of the aisle to put out a vote for their idea, and now we're going to get to vote on that same issue from Tuesday once again, maybe sometime this week, maybe not till next week. Instead, we're going to stay right on this issue that if we stay at exactly this point in this issue it will fail again. And then that side can say, oh, those Republicans, they just want to raise interest rates. Not true. But I hope that the American people have noticed that any bill that goes directly from the President to Harry Reid to the floor doesn't pass. A bill that goes to committee regardless of where the source is, has a chance of a bipartisan solution We're going to spend a whole week on this issue when both sides agree that it ought to be at 3.4%. What we're disagreeing on is how we pay for it and I got to tell you that the real answer isn't either side's answer. But it could be worked out if it went to committee."

Senator Udall-NM: (2:29 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "First, I regret the false choice between helping students or funding preventive health care. Most Americans support student loans. Most Americans see the value of preventive health care. And yet my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would ask that we sacrifice one for the other. An affordable education should not be held hostage to cuts in preventive health care. That is not a choice; it's an ultimatum. Have we really come to this. We teach our children to set goals, to set priorities. It's like a bus heading toward a cliff. We could turn it around and we ought to be able to do so without throwing students under it. The other side says they care about our nation's students, too. Perhaps, but there is caring and then there is devotion. And once again their devotion is for the wealthiest among us and not for the 7 million students worried about how they will pay for their education. So back to choices. As any bright college student can tell us, it always comes down to choices. How do we protect the Stafford student loan program? By further cuts to preventive health care? By weakening research to prevent disease? By cutting our response to public health and emergencies? No, of course not. We do it by closing a tax loophole, by requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share of payroll taxes. I would submit this is not and should not be a tough choice. But apparently it is. In fact, it's so tough that the other side doesn't want to talk about it any further. The result: yet another filibuster, which brings me to my other regret. Once again this senate is broken, in limbo, stuck. Once again, the American people look on in dismay. The U.S. Senate was once called the greatest deliberative body in the world. Now it reminds me of that song "the Sound of Silence," and no one dare disturb the sound of silence. That is what we hear more and more - silence, no debate, no discussion. Yesterday's vote was the 21st filibuster by Republicans of a Democratic bill this Congress."

Senator Coons: (2:40 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We can empower students to make more informed choices and fully understand the relationship between the debt they take on, their choice of major or studies and their future career path by providing more and earlier and better information about this. Financial literacy: a clear understanding of how or whether borrowing will help raise their potential later is a key part of the real solution to our country's ongoing and exploding student loan debt. We can say creative solutions that look beyond the obvious and work to make higher education more affordable. That's why I'm so glad I've been able to work with my friend Congressman Chaka Fattah in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on legislation to create private investment for scholarships. Congressman Fattah showed tremendous leadership in crafting a bill to help more kids afford college education entitled the Community to College Tax Credit Act, the bill encourages private donors to support and sustain educational trusts that make higher education possible to all the young people of a chosen community. These private donors encouraged by a 50% tax credit will help fund need-based college scholarships, fueling a new generation of achievement by making higher education more affordable and reducing the need for student loans. Equally importantly, in places where these programs are already in place, like Syracuse, it changes expectations when young people from the very beginning of schooling, from the first grade, the second grade, the third grade know that there is some possibility, some savings account, some community program that will fund their higher education, the likelihood that they will finish high school and go on to college increases by four to seven times. I support Congressman Fattah's innovative effort to support community trusts that support higher education. That's one idea for looking beyond the box and working to make higher education more accessible. Here's another. The American Dreams Accountability is a bipartisan bicameral bill to encourage partnerships between schools, colleges, nonprofits and businesses to develop secure, web-based individual, portable student accounts that contain information about each student's academic preparedness and skills. It also directly tackles the issue of student loan debt by working with students on financial literacy from a very young age. Instead of having each of these different resources available as they are now separately it connects them across existing education programs at the state and federal level This bill is a potentially powerful step toward helping more students of all income levels and background access, afford and complete a college education. It's rooted in my own experience with the I Have A Dream Foundation, which has helped more than 15,000 young people all over the country to achieve the dream of higher education. If we want American companies, American workers and American families to compete and win in the global economy, we have to help our students afford higher education. It really is that simple."

Durbin, Boxer, Rubio

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012 4:01 PM

Senator Durbin: (2:49 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "It is a shame that we're not in a position where we can consider your amendments, but as you know and spoke to in your speech, a decision yesterday by the republicans to go into a filibuster, which is what you are witnessing on the floor, which is why there's so few people and nothing really happening aside from some really outstanding speeches, is a decision which they made time and again. This was rarely used in the history of the senate. The filibuster. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, some people remember that movie. The 1960's in the civil rights debate; remember that too. Sometimes during the Vietnam War, maybe. Rarely used, but now it has become routine, commonplace. So that day after weary day people who subscribe to C-SPAN on their cable channels are calling in to the cable providers asking for their money back because nothing's happening on the floor of the Senate. And whose fault is it? It's our fault. When an issue like this, the one that brought on this filibuster is explained to the American people, they shake their heads and say what are you doing in Washington? Here's what it's about. July 1 the interest rate on student loan debts through the federal government doubles. It goes from 3.4% to 6.8% unless we do something. So we have a bill we brought to the floor yesterday and said let's bring this bill in, let's debate it, let's vote on it, let's change so that we can protect these students and their families. Let's change that increase back to the original 3.4%. What's it worth? For someone who borrows $20,000 over the course of college education, it's worth $4,000. If that's your son or your daughter or you happen to cosign with them $4,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Pew did a survey of a working families across America and they asked them a very basic question: of you, the working family population, how many could come up with $2,000 in 30 days? Two thousand bucks because of an emergency in your home, something, a water pipe just broke, the furnace broke down. My daughter just went to the hospital. Two thousand bucks. Half. Half of working families in America have access to $2,000. So what is $4,000 more in interest being paid mean? For a senator, not much. For an average working person, a lot. So what happened yesterday? We called this bill and said let's move to it. Let's start debating it. Let's get it done before July 1. We all agree we should. President Obama, even Governor Romney said get this done. Not a single Republican senator would vote with us. Not one would vote with us to bring the bill to the floor. That's why we sit here, literally wasting our time and the time of taxpayers over an issue that we shouldn't even have to debate."
  • Honored veterans and their families.

Senator Boxer: (3:24 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Yesterday I spoke on the floor about the Democratic bill to reduce interest rates on student loans. And I was lamenting the fact our Republican colleagues would not even permit us to turn to the bill, they were filibustering a motion to proceed to the bill which meant that we could no longer work on it. That's why this floor today is so empty. We should have been here working on a student loan bill which is so critical to so many college students and their families across the country. The interest rates on these student loans, which are the Stafford loans, the federal subsidized loans, is going to go from 3% to 6% and we want to get it back down. And this is important to 7.5 million students and their families. And when I concluded my remarks, Senator Brown from Massachusetts took to the floor and he said he expressed shock that I was concerned about Republican filibusters and started to talk about how cooperative the republicans have been, pointing to a few issues where we have worked together. Look, I am here to say that working together in a bipartisan manner on a few issues is fine. But we need to work together on a bipartisan manner on almost all the issues that we work on here because the American people are counting on us. So because there's a handful of issues on which the Republicans cooperated, let's not come down to the floor and say everything is perfect and Republicans aren't blocking us when in fact they are blocking us."

Senator Rubio: (3:48 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Everyone agrees on this. There hasn't really been debate on it. I haven't run into anybody from either party who has said, let the rate go up. The argument is simply this: how do we pay for it? We have to pay for it because if we're going to keep the interest rates on these federally subsidized loans, if we're going to keep the interest rate down, we have to pay for it. We have to find the money from somewhere to pay for it. And so the debate really and the disagreement, to the extent that it is a complicated disagreement - I don't believe that it is - the disagreement is not about the student interest rates. The disagreement is about how do we pay for the cost of keeping the rates low for another year? There is a difference of opinion. I'm new to the Senate. I'm not new to legislation. I spent nine years in the Florida legislator and two years as the speaker. We dealt with complicated issues there as well. What we would do in those instances where there was a disagreement - not on what we wanted to accomplish but on thousand get there - is you work on it. You sit people down and say, it is not that much money in terms of federal standards - it sounds crazy to pay that because we're talking about billions of dollars - but from federal standards it is not that complicated anger. Let's sit down, get some like-minded people together and figure out a bipartisan way to pay for it, which we all agree we need to do. That is the normal, regular way to deal with an issue like this. That is not what's happened here. Why? Why are smart intelligent people that serve in this chamber, why have they not met and discussed a way to pay for this? Because it is not really a complicated. It wouldn't take that long to come up with a way to pay for it that both sides agreed. Why hasn't that happened? And the answer to that question is something people back home are not going to like, people that are here today visiting are not going to like it hear, and whoever is watching on television right now isn't going to like. The reason is, because that's the way things have been here since I've gotten here. It's about politics. Shocking as that may be, there is politics in this process, and that's what's influencing this here today. A few weeks ago the President made a decision that this was an issue that he wanted to use. His campaign and his folks a decision that student loan debt and the interest rate was a perfect opportunity to use yet again another wedge issue. The latest wedge issue, and you've seen a series of them - the latest wedge issue is let's campaign on the issue that Republicans are not in favor of students and let's use the student loan issue as an example of that. Of course, those plans kind of got messed up when the Republicans said we agree with you. We can't let student loan rates go up hearts. The President continued to travel the country and campaign on keeping loan rates down even though no one was against him. He was campaigning against his opponents on this issue, even though there were no opts on this issue. After a couple of days of figuring out, we are going to lose this wedge issue, they came up with a second way to deal with it. That is, let's bring this issue to a vote on the floor but let's build it in such a way, let's put a bill on the floor of the Senate that we know will fail, that we know Republicans can't vote on. It wasn't, let's kind of meet and see where we can meet to pay for this. It's let's put a bill on the floor that we know Republicans will never support so that we can then spend a week talking about this on the Sunday talk shows and speeches from the campaign. It is about messaging. And in a country where our national debt now equals the size of our economy in a country where we're five-, six weeks away - in a country where we learned that job creation is stagnant, where workers have been out of work for a year or longer, where are workers have stopped looking for work, the United States has wasted yet another week on a show - on a show when in fact this is an easy issue for us to have come together and solved."

Menendez, Merkley, Franken

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012 4:52 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."

May 09 2012 5:47 PM

Senator Brown-OH: (4:51 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "It's important because there are 300,000 students in my state alone in Ohio, some 380,000, to be more precise, who are in the Stafford subsidized loan program and many of them will see as they continue their college education, whether it's at Sinclair community college in Dayton or Youngstown State or Hiram college, where their costs are continuing to go up. We know the average four-year college graduate has $27,000 in student loans. That's much higher than people had a decade ago or 20 years ago or 30 years ago when my generation was in college. The federally subsidized student loans have been a reliable answer for so many in my state The disappointment is that five years ago, this was bipartisan. President Bush signed a bill that many of us here sponsored in both parties, in a Democrat House, a Democratic Senate but good bipartisan support, signed by a Republican President to lock in for five years this 3.4% interest rate. If we do nothing, if we can't get our Republican colleagues to join us on this and then do the same in the House of representatives to continue this 3.4% subsidized Stafford loan, it's going to mean that come July, the average college student will pay about a thousand dollars more for each year of college. And that's just unconscionable when college student loans are such a burden. It means that people that have these student loans and at this level simple when they get out of school, they're less likely to buy a house, less likely to start a family, less likely to start a business."

Senator Schumer: (5:04 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The big problem with higher education in America is not quality, although of course it could be made better, but it's affordability. It's not the same as k-12. And yet, here we are sitting here, and the other side is in a certain sense figuratively twiddling their thumbs and making it worse. How is America going to stay the greatest economic power in the world when fewer and fewer of our bright, capable, hardworking students can afford college? And when more and more of them decide that they are not going to go to school. Or if they go to school, not to the college of their choice for financial reasons. And so we've put a reasonable offer on the table. The proposal - we pay for our college tuition act by closing a loophole that people like Rush Limbaugh said should be closed when John Edwards was found to have used it in his law firm, when other leading Republicans in 2004 said this is one of the greatest abuses of the tax code they had ever seen. And all of a sudden our colleagues on the other side of the aisle say they can't vote for it. This was an issue that was talked about as we talked about dealing with the budget gap in august or in December. It was during last year. I remember it was. And again, we didn't hear objections from the other side. Take that one off the table, we can't live with it. So it seems what's going on here is very simple. Our colleagues know that certainly it's politically unpopular but probably it's politically wrong to be, to allow tuition rates to double, interest rates on tuition loans to double. But they can't just say they're against it. Or they tried to say they're against it. When the president went around the country and talked about that, they had to back off that. In the house they came up with a pay-for which was sort of laughable. Everyone knew it wasn't going to pass and no one took their position seriously. We always hoped our colleagues in the Senate who, frankly, have been much more reasonable in the last little while - we passed a Highway bill with bipartisan support. We passed a Postal Reform bill with bipartisan support. We passed the VAWA, Violence Against Women Act, with bipartisan support. And we thought we could get this done with bipartisan support, because our goal is not to draw a difference between the parties. That's been apparent. But to get this done. And we thought when we put our proposal on the floor, they'd accept it. At minimum, we thought that they would at least come back with a offer, let's debate it."

Senator Blumenthal: (5:10 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "There should be nothing contentious, certainly nothing partisan about this issue of financing the future of education and particularly student loans. There ought to be a common cause here, and it ought to be bipartisan. I believe eventually it will be because we need to come together on this issue for the sake of young people whose lives are very directly and immediately impacted by this issue in Connecticut and across the country. Not only their lives, but our competitive economy, increasingly a global economy in Connecticut that depends more and more on exports and more and more on talented and gifted and trained, educated, skilled people. We need them in Connecticut, and we cannot permit the interest rate on Stafford loans to rise to 6.8% from its present rate of 3.4%. Even know the debt, with the present 3.4%, is crushing to many of our students who are struggling to pay their student loans with that lower interest rate Senators Reid and Harkin want to come to a solution that will keep the burden off the backs of students without adding to our national debt. It's not a tax increase that they propose. It is simply a solution that clarifies tax rules that are already in existence by closing a loophole. It's known as the Gingrich-Edwards loophole. I wish it weren't known by that name. But it lets lawyers, consultants and highly-paid professionals dodge payroll taxes and push that burden off on the middle class. Getting rid of this loophole is another step toward an America where everybody pays their fair share and everybody plays by the same rules. It's the America that we grew up believing in. It's the America that we continue to believe in. And some have claimed that it is an America we've lost. I don't believe it. And we can prove it by closing this loophole. The provision proposed by Senate Democrats to close this loophole is narrowly tailored to affect individual . or $250,000 for joint filers. And they are trying to shield their salaries from taxes, calling themselves small businesses. It will not affect the actual small businesses of this country and it will not raise taxes for anybody who already pays what they owe in payroll taxes. This loophole should be closed independent of the student loan crisis. We ought to close this loophole regardless of the challenge we face now in keeping the interest rate at 3.4%. Very simply, we're being asked to make a false choice. The choice between accessible education and improved public health. It's not a choice that we have to make."

Senator Shaheen: (5:18 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The fact is that the United States workforce needs to have the skills to compete in the global economy, and that means making sure that colleges is affordable because so many of the new jobs that are being created require higher education. And the reality is that students today face ever-growing tuition rates and that student loans are a critical bridge for them to cover these costs. But unless we act, over 7 million students, 38,000 in my state of New Hampshire alone, 38,000 who rely on subsidized Stafford student loans, will see an increase in their student debt when they graduate. Now, this is a particular problem for us in New Hampshire because our students have the highest average student debt in the nation. They are graduating with just over $31,000 in debt per student, and not only do they have the highest average debt, but 74% of our college students are in debt, and that's the second-largest number in the country. So we have the highest average debt, the second-highest number of students graduating with debt. The fact is that students in New Hampshire and across this country need some relief and doubling the interest rate is exactly the wrong way we should be going in terms of policies to promote giving every American the opportunity to succeed. We need to encourage our students to go on to higher education, to advance degree programs and to professional schools. Their future employment and our economy both depend on this."

Senator Inhofe: (5:25 PM)
  • Spoke on the EPA's overreach.
    • SUMMARY "On May 3, the Washington Post editorial board penned and editorial entitled "The EPA is Earning a Reputation for Abuse." In this editorial, they discuss how the former region six administrator, Armendarez's "philosophy of enforcement" has severely hurt the EPA to refresh your memory, it was a couple weeks ago at this very podium that I read the quotes that I'm about to quote you again today. And while the Washington Post doesn't agree with me all the time, I was pleased to read that they saw that the crucified policy Mr. Armendarez reported clearly showed that he preferred to extract harsh punishments on an arbitrary number of firms to scare others into cooperating. Further, the Washington Post editorial board saw this attitude as just unjust and threatening to investors in energy products. While Armendarez has resigned, his statements have undermined the legitimacy of the EPA's regulatory authorities. We know that harsh punishments on individuals in order to scare others into cooperation was not just inflated rhetoric. Mr. Armendarez followed through what he had the region six pursue a trumped-up charge on a gas company in Texas. The EPA is not using its power fairly and shoring its enforcements is arbitrary and reliable, capricious and but the Post editorial board didn't see Armendarez as an isolated incident. They also called out EPA's actions in other recent high-profile misuse of power. EPA insisted that an Idaho couple, the Sacats stopped construction on a home because it violated the Clean Water Act. The court ruled unanimously 9-0 that EPA had exceeded its authority in pursuing the Sacets and was ensured that they and other people who find themselves in similar situations can overcome the EPA's assertion of whether or not their property jurisdictional wetlands without submitting to the permit process. A mere two days later, the EPA was again called out for overreaching their authority on water issues. Then on March 23, the U.S. district court ruled, the EPA overreached in revoking a permit to after the army corps of engineers had already granted it. In quite a blow to the the judge said that EPA's claims - and I'll quoting now what the judge said, "that section 4040 grants in its plenary authority to unilaterally modify or revoke a permit that has been duly issued by the corps is a stunning power for an agency to abrogate to itself when there is essentially no mention of it in the statute." That's what the court said. Yet in the midst of scathing reviews from the press and court, EPA is still acting as if everything is still the same it was before."

Harkin, Reid (The Senate Stands Adjourned)

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 09 2012 6:52 PM

Senator Harkin: (6:02 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Yesterday Republican senators voted to block the bill to prevent the doubling of the federal student loan interest rate on July the 1st. And as long as they continue their filibuster, there is no clear way forward to prevent, to prevent that devastating rate hike less than two months from now. If that happens, more than 7.4 million American students will be required to pay an average of a thousand dollars more per year of school. Now, this is especially important to my state of Iowa, important to all states. Nearly 72% of Iowa's college graduates have student loan debt, the fourth highest in the nation. And those borrowers are carrying an average of $30,000 in student loan debt, which is the third highest in the nation. In floor debate this week, Republicans claimed that they, too, want to prevent the rate hike so that's fine, I welcome that. But if Republicans want to join with us in preventing the rate hike, why won't they let us proceed to the bill? That will give us all an opportunity to debate the bill and to offer amendments. So I call on my Republican friends, if they really want to keep the interest rate hike from doubling on students, call off the filibuster, let's move ahead with the bill."

Senator Reid: (6:38 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Today Republicans have said that democrats should negotiate their way out of the stalemate. Again, very strange reasoning. It's hard to negotiate without a partner. Every Tuesday after we do our weekly caucus meetings, I go to what we call the Ohio clock, and one of the reporters said your Republican colleague, Senator McConnell, said you should negotiate on this issue with Speaker Boehner. Now, how do you like that one? That I, the leader in the Senate, should go to the Republican house and start negotiating with them. That is a strange, strange way of doing business. The Republicans claimed that their only objection to our legislation is how it's paid for. By closing a tax loophole that allows wealthy Americans to dodge taxes they already owe. That's what we feel should happen. We don't believe it's a tax increase. It's just that people should pay what they are supposed to pay. They now have a way of avoiding taxes. Rich accountants and lawyers avoid it by claiming that they are going to pay dividends on ordinary income. It's not fair to everyone else. So if the republicans object to this, fine. Democrats are willing to consider alternative offsets. In fact, we're even willing to vote on the House Republicans' own proposed offset. Now, that's a dosey to offset the republican control in the house. Take away money for preventative care for virtually everybody. The leading causes of death in America are diabetes, heart disease and cancer. They want to take away programs that allow preventative programs to stop heart disease. As we knowthere are programs now, mammograms, for example, that stop people from having to get too far behind with breast cancer. That's their offset. We strongly oppose that alternative, but we're willing to vote on it. We're not running from it. And once their proposal to slash programs that save money and lives fails, and it will fail, we still - we Democrats are still willing to have other options to pay for this legislation. My Republican colleagues, on the other hand, have refused to consider alternative ways to pay for a bill they claim they support. So I say to my Republican colleagues let us bring this bill to the floor. If Republicans are so interested in negotiating a solution, they should be willing to take that good-faith step. Once the bill is on the floor, we can debate it, we can amend it with an offset both sides can agree on. But until Republicans end their obstructionist filibuster, there is no path forward."
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 9:30 AM and Majority Leader Reid will be recognized.
    • It is anticipated that the Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, and the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
  • 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 Thursday, May 10th.