Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic women held a press availability today urging House Republicans to act to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling by ending subsidies to Big Oil rather than furthering their assault on women's health. Below are the Leader's remarks and a transcript of the question and answer session:
Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks:
Good morning everyone. Today, on the floor of the House, we'll be taking up legislation relating to the interest rates paid by students and their families on student loans. All Americans, I think, agree that the best investment a family and a nation can make is in the education of our children for their own self-fulfillment, but also for the competitiveness of our nation.
For this reason, in 2007, the Democratic majority in the Congress passed legislation that would ratchet down the interest rates that students pay on their loans. It passed in a strong bipartisan way, 77 Republicans voted for it, President Bush signed the legislation. Now that is expiring and last week in their budget, the Republicans overwhelmingly voted to allow the 6.8 percent interest rates to come forth. Democrats in our budget said "no, we have to offset that and continue the 3.4 percent interest rates." This makes a very big difference around the kitchen table of America's families. The Republicans lost patience with the idea that we should be reducing the interest rates paid for by students and expressed their dismay.
President Obama took the issue to the public explaining why and what the difference this makes in terms of the obligation and the burden that would be on America's families. Apparently he made the issue too hot for the Republicans to handle because now, today, they're saying "okay, we will postpone the increase in interest rates for one year," by bringing a bill to the floor that says "we will do this, but we will only reduce the interest rates by making an assault on women's health, a continuation of their assault on women's health." Just before we came to this press availability, the President issued a veto threat. The Administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy, which said that if the "President is presented with H.R. 4628, his [advisors] would recommend he veto the bill." And the reason why is because this prevention fund, from which they want to take the money, is very important to women's health.
Here to tell us why is the Ranking Democrat on the Health and Human Services SubCommittee of Appropriations, the Co-Chair of our Steering and Policy Committee, Member of the Leadership, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro
Question and Answer:
Q: Speaker Boehner's point about, that there is a precedent for taking money from this fund, if this fund is so important, why was four or five billion taken out as a bargaining chip in the payroll tax?
Leader Pelosi. Good question. And all the more reason why we shouldn't be taking any more money out of it. We weren't happy that that was the only way that they would agree to the payroll tax reduction. But the fact is, some money has already been taken out, all the more reason to leave the rest of the money. And again, I call your attention to the fact that they don't only take out what they need, they want to eliminate the fund. They tried to do that in December. We stopped them then.
Q: Madam Leader don't you feel that they keep going back on health care? Obviously, there are many in their party who don't like the health care law. Do you view this as pure politics, the simple "we can stick it to the health care law" in some other way? Do you view it in that frame?
Leader Pelosi. No, I view it as a statement of their values. In their budget they make it clear, as Congresswoman DeLauro said, they want to end the Medicare guarantee, they want seniors to pay more as the Medicare guarantee is terminated, seniors to pay more in the meantime, perhaps $6,400 more each year as they give over $400,000 tax break to people making over a million dollars a years.
Now, I'm going to yield to Congresswoman Maloney, she may want to say something about that issue.
Ms. Maloney. It's interesting that the fund they keep going back to is one that particularly benefits -- it benefits men too -- but it particularly benefits the reproductive health care, childbearing health care, preventive health care that is so necessary to women. And I would say it's another example, with the Presidents' veto, why the President has a 15 to 20 point gender gap advantage because of his actions like today -- standing up for women, children, and I'd say all Americans. And Republicans have an 18 point gender gap. I would say they have worked very hard to earn that gender gap. Bit by bit. Vote by vote. Bill by bill. Defund by defund. And insult by insult. And we will continue to ask the question: "where are the women?" And we'd like the women to be in the budget with the special needs that we have for preventive health care, preventive health care actually saves money in the long run. If you can prevent cancer, if you can prevent some type of disease, or some type of anything, then you're really investing not only in the health of the individual, but the health of the country. So, we will continue to find women at all tables, treated equally at all tables, and with proper funding for their health care.
Q: Leader Pelosi could you address the fact that this is happening at the same time as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is happening. Republicans say that they are trying to make changes to the bill, something about exclusions in the Senate [inaudible] to the House that they say, you know, our [inaudible]
Leader Pelosi. You know what? I get your point. The point is that on the floor of this House, at this time, on this day, the Republicans have folded because the President made the issue too hot to handle. That is why the bill is coming to the floor today. It has to come up soon because by July the interest rates would double. But the reason that its happening in the same week as the Violence Against Women Act passed in the Senate is because they folded. They felt the heat of the President going out there and saying "we cannot allow 3.4 to go to 6.8 [percent] for families trying to send their kids to college. So, the timing is their folding.
I'm going to yield on the Violence Against Women Act to the sponsor in the House of the Violence Against Women Act, the Co-Chair of the Women's Caucus, Congresswoman Gwen Moore.
Ms. Moore. I think the Senate passed, by a wide, 68-31 I believe, a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, that had all of the elements in it based on best practices to include provisions that help all women despite their immigration status, despite their gender or sexual orientation, and in particular, to provide jurisdiction on tribal lands where 52 percent of the assaults, sexual assaults, that are committed on tribal lands, go without any retribution because the tribal lands don't have any authority. We think that that bill ought to be brought up in that form and again, this is a very gendered institution, the Congress. And I think that the inability to bring forth that bill here in the House is another example of the gender bias against women.
When we look at this health care fund that they want to gouge. It's because health care is one of the issues that women most care about and it has a greater impact on them. Whether you're talking about Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, student loans, Pell Grants, no matter what you talk about. All of these programs that are being gouged in our budget are disproportionately being used by women. And this is just one more example, this, the Violence Against Women [Act], where we are seeing the sheer gender bias in this institution against meeting women's needs. So, we hope that they bring forth the Senate bill and not their so called "clean bill" because they don't want to sully their hands with dealing with women who are in the shadows, make immigrant women more invisible, those women's who are lesbians and are victims of violent crimes and, of course, those women who find themselves facing all kinds of violence. We don't want that gender bias to prevail in their version of VAWA.
Leader Pelosi. I just want to be sure that the Congresswoman, she's preaching to us all of the time, that many of the kids who take advantage of student loans also need this prevention. It's a difficult, it's like they brought two stones together and they're playing with fire. They ought not to do it. This prevention saves lives, saves money, and there certainly are plenty other places to go in the budget. For example there are tax breaks for the wealthiest people in America, as we do in our bill, to eliminate some of the subsidies that they have for Big Oil in their budget and in their priority system. What we're saying here today is "stop your assault on women." The depleting, not just using it for the student loan issue, but to go beyond that and say: "we're eliminating the funding for the prevention fund." The source of much of the resources that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) uses for public health and prevention. It's just plain wrong. We salute the President for taking the message to the public in such a strong way. Again, making it too hot for the Republicans to handle. Unfortunately, they came back with what seemed natural to them, let's take the money out of women's health rather than subsidies to Big Oil.
Thank you all very much.