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Public Statements

Student Aid And Fiscal Responsibility Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ANDREWS. Madam Chair, I thank our chairman for yielding, and I rise in strong support of this bill.

The issues before the House, tonight, Madam Chair, are these: Do you agree or disagree that the time has come to make college more affordable for men and women around this country, by making Pell Grant scholarships more available, student loans less expensive, more available. I think most people would say, Yes, we do agree with that.

The issue before the House tonight is, is it time for the country to make an investment in the youngest Americans, 3- and 4- and 5-year-olds who have yet to go to formal school so they get the highest level of achievement early in their lives. I think most people would say yes, the answer is yes.

The question before the House tonight is that at a time when many of our schools are inefficient, falling apart, badly in need of repair or replacement, is it time to put Americans back to work in repairing and rebuilding some of those schools? I think, Madam Chair, most people would say, yes, it is time to do that.

But they are worried about the fiscal crisis that this administration and this Congress inherited. So maybe we shouldn't do those things.

But if there is a way to reduce the deficit and achieve the things I just talked about, wouldn't it make sense to do that? And I think most would say, yes, it most certainly would, and that is precisely what the bill before us tonight does.

The Congressional Budget Office, a fair, nonpartisan arbiter of the facts, said the following: The status quo student loan program that takes taxpayer money and gives it to private lenders and then rewards them to take a risk, not with their money, but with ours, doesn't make any sense.

Let me say that again. The way the present program works is that private lenders get money from the taxpayers, take a risk with the taxpayers' money, and get paid a reward for taking that risk.

Now, it is fine to take a risk with your own money--and we should encourage that in this country. But when you are taking a risk with the taxpayers' money, you shouldn't be rewarded for it. This bill stops that practice, and the Congressional Budget Office says that yields $87 billion in savings over the next few years.

Here's what we do. We invest $77 billion of that in the education of the people in this country, the strongest engine of economic growth known to this country, educating men and women to be scientists and teachers and engineers and craftsmen and craftswomen, educate our young children, repair our schools that are in need of repair.

But then, the bill also takes $10 billion and reduces the deficit that we inherited. This is a chance to vote ``yes'' for college scholarships and loans. It's a chance to vote ``yes'' for educating the youngest Americans. It's a chance to vote ``yes'' to rebuild our crumbling schools and vote ``yes'' for deficit reduction.

I urge a ``yes'' vote.

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Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment.

This amendment does not pose a choice between those who support bureaucracy and those who support education. It poses a choice between those who wish to see economic growth by investing in the most important aspect of economic growth, our workforce, and those who would prevent such a thing.

I would not rely on this argument on, frankly, my colleagues here in the House, although I commend them for putting this in the bill. I would rely instead upon this statement from the Business Roundtable, which is the association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies with more than $5 trillion in annual revenues and 10 million employees. So this is not the community colleges speaking. This is not those of us on the majority side speaking. It is the CEOs of the leading companies in America, and here is what they said:

``On behalf of the Business Roundtable, I want to commend you''--it's addressed to Chairman Miller--``for inclusion of the Community College Initiative in H.R. 3221. This Community College Initiative and the President's American Graduation Initiative reflect the fact that community colleges have emerged as important institutions where acquiring skills for new jobs and new careers will take place.''

The United States cannot compete without the most highly skilled and motivated workers in the world, and I dare say that our odds of achieving that goal in the workforce are severely compromised if our community college sector is not strengthened.

The community colleges that I represent are overwhelmed with new applicants. They're overwhelmed attempting to find facilities and resources to deal with the education of those new applicants. That's why my colleges would agree with the CEOs of the biggest companies in this country who say that the Community College Initiative is so important for community colleges to reach their potential.

Let us not unduly constrict these fine institutions. Let us not listen to Republicans or Democrats. Let's listen to the leaders of corporate America who say, vote ``yes'' and oppose this amendment.

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