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Public Statements

Higher Education Extension Act of 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


HIGHER EDUCATION EXTENSION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 20, 2005)

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Mr. KILDEE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I rise today to support H.R. 3784, a temporary 3-month extension of the Higher Education Act. This, in essence, extends temporarily the 1998 reauthorization which was fashioned in a very bipartisan manner by the gentleman from California (Mr. McKeon) and myself.

I am pleased that in the face of a national tragedy a simple extension has been offered. I hope the Republican leadership can use this time, however, to reevaluate H.R. 609, their plan to balance the massive deficit on the backs of students already struggling to pay for college. H.R. 609 is part of the reconciliation package.

Madam Speaker, from my days in the seminary, I always believed that reconciliation was a loving thing. H.R. 609, however, is certainly not an act of love. While I am cosponsor of this extension bill, I cannot ignore the impending cuts the Higher Education Act bill will ultimately suffer if the Republican reauthorization bill, H.R. 609, becomes law.

H.R. 609 represents the largest cut in the history of Federal student financial aid. The largest cut in history. That is something that should give all of us pause and concern, and I am sure it does.

The Committee on Education and the Workforce reported H.R. 609 in July by a straight party-line vote. H.R. 609 generates nearly $9 billion by eliminating some of the excessive lender subsidies, raising interest rate caps and rates on consolidation loans, charging student borrowers higher fees, and cutting critical student aid delivery funds; yet the $2 million in savings gained by eliminating the excessive lender subsidies alone will not be directed to helping students in any way.

When the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Van Hollen) and I pushed to do away with this outrageous subsidy to lenders, it was our hope that the money would be used to aid students and not to finance tax cuts for the wealthiest.

Instead, the Republican-passed budget and higher education reauthorization intends to balance the massive deficit on the backs of students already struggling to pay for college. This raid on student aid misses a golden opportunity to redirect millions to student borrowers and additional grant aid for students.

The gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) and I offered an amendment in committee to recycle millions of dollars in savings to guarantee a $500 increase in the maximum Pell grant, lower the interest rate caps on student loans, and give students a choice between a low fixed or variable rate on consolidation loans without raising costs to students or taxpayers. The Republicans rejected our amendment.

Under H.R. 609, the typical student borrower with $17,500 in debt will be forced to pay an additional $5,800 for his or her current student loans compared to current law. However, I would like to thank the gentleman from Ohio (Chairman Boehner) for offering H.R. 3784, the temporary 3-month extension of the Higher Education Act. While I am pleased to offer my support, I hope this extension will allow the Republican leadership time to reconsider their plan to raid student aid. I offer my services to work with them to achieve just that.

In the context of both reconciliation and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, we must move forward in a way that helps, not harms, our students. I look forward to working with the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Boehner) and the gentleman from California (Mr. McKeon) to achieve that.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. KILDEE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

We all know there is a direct relationship between revenue and expenses. We try to keep that balance fiscally correct and morally correct.

I happen to have voted against the tax cuts proposed by President George W. Bush. I voted against them because I could see what was going to happen. Most of those tax cuts, as most people will concede, went to the wealthier people in this country, including Members of Congress. Had we just deducted from those $2 trillion of tax cuts, when you take the whole cost, the cost of the debt, if we just deducted $9 billion from those $2 trillion, we would have money here and we would not have to balance this on the backs of the students. We could have saved it for any other program also, obviously. I am consistent that I voted against those tax cuts. I got a little criticism back home from some people; not many, but some. I saw this coming. I could see for sure that education was going to suffer. Those programs for the neediest in the country were going to suffer. The tax cuts were entirely too large, and those tax cuts have forced us to where we are in the bill put out by the committee, H.R. 609.

I think all of us have to be very cautious when we vote for revenue or revenue cuts. We have to be very cautious when we vote for expenditures. But there is a direct relationship, so I can stand here with a certain purity and say I did not vote to give away the $2 trillion, I voted to retain these funds so we could help students.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. KILDEE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

No one questions, and I can never question either the sincerity nor the fairness of the chairman. I have been here 29 years, and I cannot recall a chairman being more fair during all of our deliberations in committee. And we are friends. We disagree on certain, maybe some fundamental things. But the gentleman asked what would have happened had we not enacted those tax cuts. One thing, we would not be seeing deficits as far out as the eye can see. That is not healthy for the economy, so we can debate that. Maybe we should have had some of those tax cuts, maybe not all. But again, because we are friends, we will continue to work together. Because the chairman is fair, he will always give us a chance in committee to offer our ideas and he will listen to them patiently. We respect the chairman for that on this side of the aisle.

Madam Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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