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Public Statements

Interest Rate Reduction Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. BIGGERT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 4 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, when I talk to students and families, it's clear that today's economy doesn't hold the same promise for young adults as it once did. Our sons and daughters, many with student loan debt, are moving back home after college only to find Washington's tax-and-spend policies have made it even harder to find a job. In fact, according to a recent Associated Press report, at least half of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed. That's unacceptable.

Under current law, the outlook for some of these young adults only gets worse as interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans are set to spike from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1 of this year. That's why I've introduced H.R. 4628, the Interest Rate Reduction Act, a bill that would avert this interest rate increase, because the last thing we should do is to allow loan rates to double and make it that much harder to afford a high-quality education. Unfortunately, that's exactly what will happen if we don't set aside the rhetoric and work in a bipartisan way to pay for this critical interest rate fix.

Under my legislation, the $6 billion cost of the interest rate fix is offset in the same way as bipartisan legislation signed into law by the President earlier this year. Just 3 months ago, Members on both sides of the aisle came together and the President signed a bill that extended unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut.

The legislation I offer today would use, as an offset, the exact same source that we all agreed to use just 3 months ago. The bill would eliminate the remaining $12 billion from the so-called Prevention and Public Health Fund, which, in truth, is nothing more than an open-ended fund that has no clear oversight or purpose. At best, this fund serves only to circumvent Congress's annual appropriations responsibilities by granting, in perpetuity, the Secretary of Health and Human Services unabridged discretion to direct billions of taxpayer dollars under the loose label of prevention programs.

I should note that the President, himself, acknowledged that the prevention fund is bloated when he requested a $4 billion cut to the program in his FY13 budget. By reclaiming a portion of the administration's misguided health care law through the elimination of this blank-check program, my legislation would extend lower rates for college loans, granting relief to our young people without raising taxes on their potential employers.

It is a commonsense plan that deserves bipartisan support. I ask my colleagues to step forward today and show the American people that we can solve this problem immediately, without the drama of a last-minute, on-deadline fix.

It is my hope that our colleagues in the Senate as well will work with us to send it to the President immediately.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the Interest Rate Reduction Act, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BIGGERT. Mr. Speaker, at this time, I would like to enter into the Record several documents. One is from the American Council on Education, representing 37 education associations. They say:

Education has never been as important to America's economic health as it is now. That is why we are encouraged by the proposals we have seen. The administration and both parties have expressed their strong support for keeping the interest rate at 3.4 percent without cutting other forms of student aid.

Another one is from Lewis University in Illinois, saying that:

Doubling the interest in the subsidized Stafford loans will discourage students in need who are striving to continue their degree studies during these difficult economic times. Thank you for your support for these students.

Finally, from Joliet Junior College, saying that the college serves a population of seven counties in Illinois.

In the 2010 2011 school year, JJC students were awarded over $23 million in total financial aid. Because of this, the institution supports H.R. 4628, legislation that would prevent the scheduled rate hike.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BIGGERT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume to close.

It seems like we came in, and I think the first thing that I talked about here is how I hoped that we would be able to work together on a bipartisan basis. It just seems like this is so hard to do in this political time. I really think that, in major legislation, we really have to work together to find the solutions, but it seems like the other side is always ready to tell us what we think and what we are doing and why we are doing it. We are doing this because we really want to have our students have the ability to have a quality education, and it just seems like we're so different on the pay-fors.

I know that everybody agrees on the program itself and how we have to do it, but we can't seem to do anything without giving us a cynical view, and it bothers me. It seems like when we were talking about the pay-fors, the other side of the aisle's first reaction is to raise taxes for everything and ours has always been to reduce spending, and we think that this is the way to go. I think we have just got to find a way to get together.

I had said in my opening statement that I hoped that we would be able to get together and work together, and also the Senate. I hope that when this bill goes over to the Senate that there is a negotiation, that there is a conference so that we really can iron this out and make sure that there is not a raising to the 6.8 percent.

It kind of makes you wonder. It just seems like the political maneuvering certainly is continuing on the student loan issue. I guess today when we have this vote, we'll see what happens. But I really hope that we get to the Senate so that we have the opportunity to do this.

I just want to go back a little bit to what happened in the Education Committee yesterday that Mrs. Roby talked about and so did Mr. Tierney. I think Secretary Sebelius did say that there were services outside the prevention and public health fund that will remain available to individuals who seek preventive care, such as cancer prevention and care, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, screenings for birth defects and developmental disabilities, tobacco prevention at the CDC, and efforts that promote healthy nutrition and physical activity to prevent obesity.

So I think that this really is a lot that we believe in for prevention. And we heard from Mr. Stearns all of the appropriations and how that takes care of a lot of the prevention issues.

I think that the American people are really very knowledgeable now about prevention and what they need to do and have the ability to do this on their own as well.

This political bickering is not what the bill is all about. What the bill is all about is to reduce to 3.4 percent interest rates on the subsidized Stafford loans. And I hope that this bill will pass. I urge my colleagues to vote for it.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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