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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)

Mr. BOEHNER. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 3784) to temporarily extend the programs under the Higher Education Act of 1965, and for other purposes, as amended.

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Mr. BOEHNER. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H.R. 3784, as amended.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Ohio?

There was no objection.

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

Madam Speaker, each year millions of Americans, young and old, participate in higher education programs at this Nation's colleges and universities. Higher education has become more important than ever with a changing marketplace and increasing international competition; and that is why the Federal investment in higher education is so important.

For more than 2 years, my colleagues and I have been working to strengthen and renew the Higher Education Act so that we can better serve the millions of low- and middle-income students aspiring for a college education. And while we have made great progress this year, the reauthorization process is still not complete.

Today, I stand in support of the Higher Education Extension Act so that we ensure these vital programs continue to serve American students. The measure extends critical programs for a brief time frame, 3 months, to give Congress the additional time it needs to complete this process in the best interests of students and taxpayers.

In February, the gentleman from California (Mr. McKeon) and I introduced the College Access and Opportunity Act to complete the Higher Education Act reauthorization. That bill, similar to legislation of the same name we offered last year, was the culmination of a comprehensive effort to expand college access by focusing on fairness, accountability, affordability, and quality.

That bill contained a number of reforms that I had hoped would be enacted by today. The College Access and Opportunity Act would have realigned our student aid programs to place first priority back where it belongs, on the millions of low- and middle-income students who have not yet received a higher education.

The bill would have strengthened Pell grants, college access programs, and campus-based student aid. It would have broken down barriers and eliminated outdated regulations that are preventing nontraditional students from achieving their higher education goals.

It would have significantly realigned the multibillion-dollar student loan programs to expand access for current and future students and restore fairness so that all student borrowers would be treated equally. Consumer protection for borrowers would have been strengthened, red tape would have been reduced, and because accountability is the cornerstone of American education reform, colleges and universities would have been held more accountable to students, parents, and taxpayers, the people they serve, through increased sunshine and transparency.

Now I remain committed to a comprehensive reauthorization and hope to complete that process this year. In the meantime, the bill before us is critically important. We cannot allow programs under the Higher Education Act to expire. Too many students depend on this assistance as they strive for a higher education. Yet it is equally important that we remain committed to comprehensive reforms that will build upon these programs in strengthening them in order to expand college access.

Madam Speaker, I strongly support the extension of the Higher Education Act. Millions of American students depend on these programs, and we must not let our commitment to higher education lapse. But it is equally important that we remain focused on the ultimate goal of enacting comprehensive reforms that will strengthen and renew the Higher Education Act so it can meet the needs of current and future students.

I encourage my colleagues to support this bill and work with us in the coming weeks and months to complete this comprehensive reform package so we can better serve American students who are pursuing a college education.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's support of the bill today to extend the Higher Education Act; but I find myself in a position of having to rise and respond to some of the criticisms of H.R. 609, the reauthorization bill for the Higher Education Act that is in process.

The gentleman is right, we do over the next 5 years save $9 billion in taxpayer funds while at the same time we reduce origination fees for students, we expand loan limits for students, and better equalize the campus-based aid programs around the country.

Now, my colleague and his friends on the other side of the aisle came up with proposals to save money as well. The only difference here is that we decided that net of $9 billion ought to be saved for the taxpayers because, after all, it is their money. My friends on the other side of the aisle decided to spend it. Well meaning, well intentioned, but at some point we in Congress have a responsibility to enact public policy that is fair for all.

Some people do not go to college. As my friend knows, I am the only one of my 11 brothers and sisters to go to college. To the extent we are providing loans, they are being paid for by taxpayers, some of whom do not get a higher education. So what is fair?

I think the underlying bill, providing college loans, providing Pell grants for underserved students, is a very good thing for our country. But how much is enough?

We are going to spend about $75 billion this year in Pell grants and student loans to help low- to middle-income students achieve the dream of a higher education. I think that it is an important part of our responsibility to help improve our society. But at the same time, we also have a responsibility to people who pay taxes, and people who pay taxes watching money flowing out of this institution like water over a dam.

At some point I am not going to stand here and be embarrassed because we help improve access to higher education, we help improve the ability of students to pay for their loan programs, and at the same time save $9 billion over 5 years for the taxpayers. I think it is a pretty good deal for all.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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

Madam Speaker, I would say to my friend from Michigan, and we are friends, I proudly voted for the tax cuts and thank goodness that we passed them. Let us recount what has happened over the past 4 1/2 years: a weak economy in 2001; followed by the devastating effects of 9/11; a war in Afghanistan and a war in Iraq; and now Hurricane Katrina.

If we had not enacted those tax cuts in early 2001, what shape would our economy be in today? I want to correct my friend that voting for reductions in marginal tax rates does not mean reductions in revenue to the Federal Government. We have had this debate here in Congress now for 25 years, but reducing marginal tax rates has in fact increased revenues to the Federal Government. And look at the strength of our economy today that would not have been there had we not had those reductions in taxes.

We can, in fact, reduce taxes, grow our economy, and hold the lid on spending and give the American people the best deal in the world: good government, reasonable level of services, and more money in their pocket, that they can decide how to spend in the best interest of themselves and their families and their communities.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BOEHNER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Kildee). As I said before, we are friends and I appreciate the gentleman's kind remarks. I believe our committee process here in Congress ought to be an open forum and that Members clearly can agree, but in our committee we do not really allow members to be disagreeable. I think what it does is foster a committee where members cooperate and get to know each other and work together, and even though we may not agree on everything, every member should have a right to offer his or her ideas about the pending legislation.

Now back to the bill at hand, and I thank the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Kildee) for supporting the extension of the Higher Education Act for 3 months, and it is my fervent desire in the next 3 months Congress will reenact this authorization to the benefit of millions of American students.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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