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Public Statements

Student Aid And Fiscal Responsibility Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ANDREWS. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I rise to express the committee's strong support for his amendment. It is important to reflect on what Mr. Cuellar's amendment does, and what the bill does not do.

Mr. Cuellar's amendment answers questions for students and families and financial aid officers and universities and colleges about how best to access student loans. Mr. Cuellar's amendment, I think, very wisely recognizes there is a whole different kind of person who is achieving a higher education in our country today.

It is not simply the person fresh out of high school. It is people who are in the middle of a career change, either voluntarily or involuntarily because of a layoff or a plant closing. It is a person who is a bit further along in life who wants to build his or her career by going to college. It is a nonconventional student. It might be a person very new to America, or it might be a person who has been here for a very long time. It is people facing language, cultural, or other kinds of issues.

What Mr. Cuellar's amendment is doing is making sure that the Department of Education is a constructive and active partner in answering the questions that our constituents have. We enthusiastically embrace and support his amendment.

His amendment improves on a bill that doesn't really do any of the things that with all due respect the minority said. The minority discusses this as some sort of radical shift. It is not radical at all. Right now a student goes to a financial aid office and applies for a Pell Grant. It is a common process done throughout college and university campuses around the country. The only change between applying for a Pell Grant and applying for a student loan is you sign a document that is a note to pay the loan back. That is the only additional step that takes place. As a matter of fact, it is far less bureaucratic and far less complicated for a student accessing such a loan.

This bill saves the taxpayers $10 billion over time off the deficit. It stops the practice of rewarding people for taking risks with taxpayers' money. It understands, as the Congressional Budget Office has said, that the savings generated from this are $87 billion over time. The bill promotes efficiency. It will generate economic development.

With respect to the gentleman's point about lost jobs, Mr. Etheridge's amendment very much speaks to that. It makes sure that loan originators are now eligible to become loan processors and collectors, and much of the work done by those who originate in the private sector will now be done in the private sector by those who process and service these loans.

So the underlying bill saves the taxpayers money, significantly expands educational opportunity, and reduces the deficit by $20 billion over time. Mr. Cuellar's amendment significantly adds to the value of this bill. The committee strongly supports his amendment.

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Mr. ANDREWS. I thank my friend for yielding, and the committee congratulates and thanks him for this very excellent work he has done on this amendment.

Mr. Murphy's amendment recognizes that some of the most important teaching in America is going on right now by people who have had some of the least access to high-quality education for themselves. And it is not because they are not competent; it is not because they don't want it. It is because the resources have not been there.

The research is very clear that children in the early years of their lives develop much of their learning patterns and their skills. The country needs a significant investment in high-quality teacher education for the men and women who are teaching preschools across the country.

Mr. Murphy's amendment, I think, embraces that concept in a very wise way by encouraging the States that will receive early learning funding under this bill to consider using some of that funding in partnerships with higher education institutions so that the quality of teaching may improve.

This, I think, is an amendment that will pay dividends for years to come because better education for our pre-K students will lead to better achievement in the classroom which will yield better results throughout the lives of these students when they become taxpayers and workers and productive citizens of this country.

I think this is an effort that will bear fruit for many years to come. The committee would urge a ``yes'' vote.

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Mr. ANDREWS. I thank my friend for yielding, and I join my friend from Minnesota in supporting this amendment. I know that my friend from Minnesota speaks as a father and as a veteran when he speaks in favor of this amendment. We salute his service.

This amendment is part of a series of amendments that carry forth a bipartisan tradition of this House that says that we don't want to simply welcome our troops home with welcoming ceremonies; we want to really welcome them home with services and respect and resources that they so richly deserve.

This amendment carries forth that tradition by emphasizing that our veterans who choose to pursue a higher education and who would benefit from the full range of health services that are available to veterans need to have those services.

The amendment requires an active liaison process between the veteran service officer on a campus and the health care people at the Veterans Administration so that veterans can have the full range of services and, frankly, try to make as much one-stop shopping as we can. So a veteran who is trying to balance his or her family obligations and work obligations and school obligations, who has some health care issues, is able to get services in one place, maybe, instead of two or three.

It makes a lot of sense for people. I think the author has reflected the views of his constituents not only in his district, but veterans around our country.

The majority on the committee is strongly in favor of this proposal because it recognizes not only the service that our veterans have given us, but the needs they have. And we would urge a ``yes'' vote.

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I thank my friend for yielding, and the committee expresses its strong support and appreciation for your good work. We support it and would urge a ``yes'' vote. Again, this follows in the tradition of doing things for our veterans, not just talking about them.

With respect to the underlying bill and addressing the two points made by my friend from Delaware, first, with respect to job loss. The concern that we all share about job loss is one of the reasons why. This bill makes provisions for loan providers, private loan providers who presently originate and service loans to continue to have a robust role in the servicing and processing and collection of loans. We believe that the record will show as the years go through on this that the opportunities will, in fact, expand for those in that field.

Second, with respect to the issue of the cost of this bill, as the Members know, under our rules, we have an agreement that the Congressional Budget Office is the authoritative source, and the Congressional Budget Office has given an authoritative analysis of this bill. That authoritative analysis says that the change that's made, which is the cessation of the process of rewarding private institutions to take risk with taxpayers' money, a very logical change, that that change generates gross savings of $87 billion over the years that are subject to the analysis, and that in this bill $10 billion of that is dedicated to deficit reduction.

So I think the issue is clear. The bill provides for a continuing robust role for private sector firms and workers, and the Congressional Budget Office has authoritatively stated the savings generated by this bill are $87 billion.

The underlying bill is strong. The gentleman from New Jersey's amendment strengthens the bill. We would urge a ``yes'' vote on his amendment.

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I thank the gentlelady for yielding.

The committee expresses its strong support for the gentlelady's amendment. The amendment is very much about a person who's not simply seeking a new job, like the story the gentlelady told about Ryan, but who is seeking a new career. And frankly, this is the difference between the issues raised in the Workforce Investment Act, which we should reauthorize, and this bill. The Workforce Investment Act really focuses on switching from job to job and helping someone do that.

The gentlelady's amendment and this bill focus on building a whole new life and a whole new career, which is necessary for many of our people. They have to do it involuntarily, but it also makes that available for the person who perhaps is doing it voluntarily.

The gentlelady's amendment properly focuses on the 55,000 people in her district and the millions of people across this country who find themselves involuntarily in a position where they must build a new career and a new life. Her amendment rewards institutions that are most innovative and creative in achieving that goal. For these reasons, we enthusiastically support the gentlelady's amendment and would urge a ``yes'' vote.

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Mr. ANDREWS. I thank the author of the amendment for yielding.

The committee strongly supports his amendment and commends him for his excellent work.

No student should pay twice for the same course. If someone takes an English course and excels in it and learns a certain set of skills, he or she should then not have to pay again and consume his or her time again a second time around at a different institution. This is even more true for the men and women who volunteer to serve this country in the Armed Forces. I think it's very important that the House understands the benefits of Mr. Minnick's very wise amendment.

If a young American today who's serving in Afghanistan is able to access college credits whether online or in person and then he or she returns to his or her hometown and wants to transfer those credits so he or she can then build on their education, what Mr. Minnick says is that's one of the standards that we're going to hold these institutions to to see how well they cooperate with that veteran who has returned home. What it really does is make sure that the veteran has extra leverage, that if the course meets reasonable academic requirements and if the student really learns what he or she should, they're going to get the credit; so the veteran is not going to pay twice, nor is he or she going to have to spend as much time on their course. This is a very important to a lot of our returning veterans.

The committee enthusiastically embraces and supports this amendment by Mr. Minnick.

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thank my friend for yielding and express the committee's strong support for his well-thought-out amendment.

The amendment reflects embracing three principles. The first is deficit reduction, because the underlying bill reduces the deficit by $10 billion. The second is the value of high-quality pre-kindergarten education for the children of this country. And the third is the principle of fairness. The quality of a child's education should not depend on his or her zip code. What Mr. Perriello's amendment does is to say that States who receive these early learning grants will have to pay attention to that fact, to discern any patterns of inequality that exist and talk about what they're going to do to fix them. We think that's a very important point, and we commend Mr. Perriello for listening to people in his district. I know he represents a lot of very small counties and local subdivisions, but I know that he doesn't treat anyone's concerns as small. And by raising this amendment, he is raising the concerns of those constituents.

The committee enthusiastically supports this amendment.

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I thank the author for yielding, and the committee strongly supports his amendment.

This is another example of making sure that the educational opportunities in this bill are focused on American workers who most need the help, those who find themselves with their lives disrupted, their finances in tatters, and in a lot of trouble. The author just told a very moving story about one of his constituents who fit that description. What we want the House to do is move his legislation to success today and move forward so we can help the kind of individuals that the author of the amendment talked about. We thank him for offering it and express our support.

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I thank the gentleman from New Mexico, the author of the amendment, for yielding.

The committee strongly supports his very well-thought-out amendment.

Madam Chair, one of the things that I think we need to highlight about this amendment is its wisdom in understanding that perhaps the people who are best suited to work in our VA system are those who served the country themselves in the Armed Forces.

The gentleman talked about the fact that perhaps some of our returning veterans will be trained to work in mental health services for work in VA clinics and VA hospitals. And who would better understand the challenges and issues that one of our returning vets is facing than someone who has walked in his or her shoes?

So we think that among the many good ideas in this amendment, that focus on training people for the VA system makes an awful lot of sense. Obviously, as well, the energy component of the gentleman's amendment makes a great deal of sense.

So the committee thanks the gentleman for offering this amendment and would urge people in both parties to vote ``yes'' and support it.

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Madam Chair, I thank the gentleman for yielding. We are in strong support of his amendment.

Since his very first day in the House, the gentleman has worked diligently on the issue of addressing our deficit and reducing our debt. By supporting this amendment and by supporting this bill, he is following that course in a couple of ways. First, he is understanding that reducing entitlements is a key to reducing the deficit. And this bill has a net reduction of $10 billion in mandatory spending, as validated by the Congressional Budget Office. It is one of the single most significant entitlement reductions in several years, and the gentleman is to be commended for supporting it.

Second, the amendment shows understanding that economic growth is a powerful way to reduce our deficit and, therefore, our debt. And by supporting the investment in the education of the American people, we are supporting more jobs and more economic growth.

Finally, I would commend the gentleman for making sure that every dollar of that $10 billion in entitlement reduction will in fact be dedicated to deficit reduction.

The gentleman has offered a very good amendment. The committee strongly supports it and urges a ``yes'' vote.

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Mr. ANDREWS. I rise to claim time in opposition, although I will not oppose the amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. Without objection, the gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 5 minutes.

There was no objection.

Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, the committee supports the amendment. The clear intention of the underlying spending bill is that the funds be awarded on the formula and competitive basis stated in the bill. There is no intention that any be earmarked.

For the record, I would just say that our support of the amendment should not be read to imply that we do not support congressionally sponsored projects in other contexts, but on this one, I agree with the gentleman's amendment and would urge its acceptance.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment. I will oppose the amendment

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 10 minutes.

Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, this amendment recognizes the need for substantial reform in the Federal student loan program. It recognizes that the practice of using taxpayer money to reward private institutions that take risks, not with their own money but with taxpayer money, doesn't make any sense. So there is recognition of this problem, and that recognition is shared by the underlying bill, but here is where the underlying bill parts company from the amendment, and it's why we oppose it.

There is a huge difference between these two approaches on what to do. The approach that the minority favors saves about $17 billion less than the approach that the underlying bill favors. It's a reform that continues, unwisely in my judgment, the practice of using taxpayer money to subsidize private institutions that take a risk with taxpayer money. So, rather than continue those subsidies, the underlying bill makes some very different choices, and here is the difference on what the choices are in the $17 billion difference.

The underlying bill says let's spend that money so returning veterans could get Pell Grants in addition to their GI benefits and continue their educations. They would spend the $17 billion on bank subsidies.

Our bill recognizes the fact that community colleges are burgeoning with new enrollees who need an education because of the tumultuous circumstances in our economy. Our bill says let's spend the $17 billion to strengthen those community colleges. The amendment says let's spend it on bank subsidies.

There are students, as we speak, who are attending schools. They're taking classes in broom closets, in former boiler rooms because their schools don't have adequate places to teach children. There are schools that are more than 100 years old where children are learning about the Civil War in buildings that were built at the time of the Civil War. Our bill says let's invest some of that $17 billion in upgrading the quality of those schools and in putting Americans back to work. The amendment says, no, let's spend it on bank subsidies.

Finally, there is a choice about early childhood. Our bill says that we value and want to invest in the reading and math skills of a 4-year-old or a 5-year-old so he or she can excel as a student, can climb the ladder as a student and can succeed as a worker and as a taxpayer. So it makes an historic investment in quality early childhood education around this country. Their bill favors bank subsidies. We think our approach is right.

At this time, I yield to the chairman of the full committee to continue the argument, the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller).

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Mr. ANDREWS. I would inquire of the Chair how much time we have remaining on our side?

The Acting CHAIR. Both sides have 5 minutes remaining.

Mr. ANDREWS. Before I yield to the gentleman from New York, it is very important for the Members to understand the alternative proposal substitute guts the early childhood investment, guts the increase in Pell Grant, guts the aid to community college and guts the other investments in education, the historically black colleges, the Hispanic-serving institutions, it takes away that investment. We think that is very unwise.

At this time I would yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Bishop).

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Mr. ANDREWS. We would respectfully ask that the House disapprove this amendment, vote against it.

I did want to return to one of the fiscal arguments we heard from my friend from Minnesota, that he is right, that the idea of borrowing money from central banks around the world is not desirable to anyone here. And he is right that we should embark on an effort to reduce our deficit and eventually reduce that debt.

But I would respectfully say he is wrong with his further characterization of this issue.

What the status quo does is to borrow that very same money, which none of us wants to borrow, and then turn around and use it to reward private lending institutions who are taking risks with taxpayer money. The issue is not whether the taxpayers are at risk, the issue is how they will be at risk.

The existing status quo, which I believe the minority, through this amendment, shows that it understands needs change, puts the taxpayers' money at risk and then rewards private institutions for putting the taxpayers' money at risk. That simply makes no sense.

With respect to the fiscal argument about the $87 billion and the cost in discretionary spending, there is one that is something that is clearly known, and something that is subject to dispute. What's clearly known is that the Congressional Budget Office has said there will be $87 billion in gross savings under this bill. What happens each year under the discretionary side is for this House to work its will and decide.

So we would urge defeat of this amendment. If you believe in investment in early childhood education, in Pell Grants, in community colleges, in our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and in our Hispanic-serving institutions and other minority-serving institutions, and if you believe in $10 billion of deficit reduction, the right course is to vote against this substitute, vote for the underlying bill.

We yield back the balance of our time.


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