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Student Loans

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. CLARKE of New York. I thank the gentlelady for yielding. Today, the House passed H.R. 4628, the Interest Rate Reduction Act, or, as I like to refer to it, the ``take from the poor--give to the poor not in our interest act.''

This Republican-led bill will prevent the student loan interest rate from doubling to 6.8 percent, but in doing so would effectively gut the prevention and public health trust fund, a key component of the Affordable Care Act. When my Republican colleagues finally acknowledged the need to prevent student loan interest rates from rising on July 1, I had a glimmer of hope, hope that somewhere in their hearts remained some small bit of compassion for their fellow Americans. But I was quickly slapped back into reality when I saw that the Republicans intended to pay for this bill, as they usually do, on the backs of middle class families and the poor.

The prevention and public health trust fund was created to ensure adequate funding for preventive health initiatives. These initiatives help to improve the health of poor and middle class families and, by improving health, also help to lower health care costs.

Initiatives supported by this fund are successful because they are community-based, and as such, are uniquely tailored to the needs of targeted communities. Already, there are several key initiatives supported by the fund that benefit Americans. Two of the initiatives which directly benefit the 11th Congressional District of New York are the Chronic Disease Prevention Act, which enables communities to use evidence-based intervention to reduce chronic conditions and prevent heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, and other conditions; and the HIV/AIDS Prevention Act, which focuses on HIV prevention in high-risk populations and communities by increasing HIV testing opportunities, linking HIV positive persons with needed services and filling critical gaps in data collection.

To eliminate funding for programs that improve the health and lives of millions of Americans and lower health care costs is not prudent, which is why this ill-conceived bill is the wrong way to address this crisis. Luckily, there are two ways that this crisis can be averted. Specifically, I ask that Speaker Boehner bring to the floor either H.R. 3826, a bill introduced by my friend and colleague, Representative Joe Courtney, or H.R. 4816, a bill introduced by another of my Democratic colleagues, John Tierney.

While both bills will prevent an increase in the student loan interest rate, H.R. 4816 would also pay for this by decreasing the amount of subsidies given to Big Oil companies. So, as opposed to paying for this interest rate freeze on the backs of the middle class and the poor, the Democratic-sponsored H.R. 4816 would require that Big Oil companies pay their fair share.

So in closing, I'm issuing a call to action to all students, postgraduates, and their families: pick up the phone, email, tweet and send a Facebook message and demand that he immediately either bring H.R. 3826 or H.R. 4816 to the floor for a vote.

So, my colleagues, we have a challenge ahead of us: Do we take from the poor to give to the poor, or do we do what is right by the American people? And that is, to make sure that our students' interest rates do not increase and that we meet the demands for health care in our civil society.

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