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College Cost Reduction Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

COLLEGE COST REDUCTION ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - July 11, 2007)


Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. I thank the ranking member for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, the student aid bill that passed out of the Committee on Education and Labor is nothing but a Trojan Horse for new spending. In fact, the bill creates nine, count it, nine new entitlement programs and abuses the protection of reconciliation procedures through token budgetary ``savings.'' It also favors the government-controlled and costly direct lending program over the nonprofit and commercial lenders, promoting a back-door expansion of taxpayer-financed student support and a substantial increase in taxpayer liability.

I want to make four basic points, Mr. Speaker: Number one, budget experts have unequivocally warned Congress, experts from the left and from the right and center and everywhere else, that the unrestrained growth in entitlement spending programs is the most fundamental challenge and the largest threat to our Nation's long-term economic health. Comptroller General David Walker refers to the rising costs of entitlements as a ``fiscal cancer'' that threatens ``catastrophic consequences for our country'' and could ``bankrupt America.'' Despite all of these warnings, the majority not only failed to address the problem in their budget; they are choosing to make the problem even worse by creating nine new entitlement programs in this bill alone. That is nine new entitlement programs and nothing, not a zilch, of reforms. They're not expanding. They're not replacing. They are creating nine new entitlement programs. While the bill claims that some of these programs will sunset, we all know entitlement programs, once created, never die.

Second, this creates a new mandatory Pell Grant program. Among the new entitlement programs created is an unprecedented mandatory Pell Grant. The Pell grant is a great program, and under Republican leadership, we saw a tripling of Pell Grants from the year 1996 to 2006. Suddenly, this authorizing committee doesn't think that it is enough, and it is planning on taking the committee away from the appropriators into their jurisdiction, making an entitlement which, in my opinion, reduces congressional oversight.

Third, this contains no meaningful reform whatsoever. The bill contains none at all. It represents business as usual for existing programs, except that interest rates and limits in existing programs are changed to make room for more spending. Rather than maybe putting the savings in special education or deficit reduction to fund an unfunded mandate in local schools or reducing our deficit, it creates all of these new programs and this new spending. They will add from $15 billion to $32 billion in spending over the next 5 years alone on top of the already unsustainable entitlement costs we are facing today. Instead of reducing long-term spending, they are using a vehicle originally intended to limit spending to do just the opposite, to fund these new programs.

This bill gets Fast-Track legislation under the guise of deficit reduction, under the guise of controlling spending. Yet what we see here today is a bill that takes $18.58 billion from student loan providers only to spend more than $17.13 billion on new entitlement programs. The savings of this bill is 9 percent, a net savings of 9 percent.

Look at these two bars on the chart next to me. Does it look like the savings are anywhere near the new spending level, or does it look like a sliver of savings is being used to abuse the process of expedited reconciliation protection so they can create all of these new programs?

I offered an amendment in the Rules Committee that would have required that the bulk of these savings be going toward deficit reduction. It is the same amendment that Senator Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, offered and was passed by unanimous consent on the Senate floor. I couldn't even get this amendment past the Rules Committee, much less on the floor of the House.

There is one last point, Mr. Speaker, that bears repeating, and that is, this favors government over markets. It increases taxpayer liabilities. It favors a government-controlled and costly direct lending program over nonprofit and commercial lenders, promoting a back-door expansion of taxpayer-financed student support. As students are pushed toward the government monopoly, the student benefits and services provided by nongovernment lenders to attract business would be lost. Further, the government-run program only handles 20 percent of the loans today. It would be overwhelmed with the new business and shut done, as it has been in the past, when large volumes shifted to the program.

I just want to finish with one quote from the Democrat chairman of the Budget Committee: ``The reconciliation instruction that led to this bill'' we are seeing here today is a ``stalking horse for a significant expansion of spending.''

Please join me in opposing this back-door expansion of new entitlement spending. Let's use budget reconciliation for what it was made for, reducing the deficit and controlling spending, rather than creating nine new entitlements.


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