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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2669, College Cost Reduction Act of 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mrs. BIGGERT. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the rule and the underlying bill, H.R. 2669, the so-called College Cost Reduction Act. Like many of my colleagues, I have serious concerns about the new mandatory spending that is included in this legislation. H.R. 2669 creates nine new entitlement programs, most of which do not attempt to address the hurdles many prospective and current college students face.

Mandatory spending entitlement programs already consume the largest portion of the Federal budget. The uncontrolled growth of entitlement programs, particularly Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, will eventually consume the entire Federal budget by 2050 if left unchecked. That means the Federal Government would have no available funds for programs other than entitlements; no militaries, highways, courts, law enforcement or border security.

So how are we addressing this looming crisis today? Well, it seems we are addressing it by creating new entitlement programs, nine of them. The new programs created under this legislation will not undergo the annual scrutiny of the appropriations process. Regardless of the success or failure of these programs, the American taxpayer, our constituents, will continue to pay for these new programs available to anyone that meets the basic qualifications.

Another serious concern is that some of the mandatory spending in H.R. 2669 is directed towards colleges, universities and philanthropic organizations. Traditionally entitlement programs have been directed at individuals who are in need of the Federal assistance, such as Medicare, Social Security, food stamps and student loans. Directing the mandatory funding under this legislation to institutions, instead of low- and middle-income students who need the assistance most, sends the wrong message about the priorities of this Congress.

During the Education and Labor Committee markup, I supported a substitute amendment offered by Mr. McKeon that would have invested $12 billion in the Pell Grant program, more than double the increase provided by this bill. It also reduced the PLUS loan interest rates for the Federal Family Education Loan Program to match the interest rate in the Direct Loan Program, currently 7.9 percent. The funding provided under the McKeon substitute would have been directed to those who need the assistance most, the students, without creating new programs and additional bureaucracy for students and parents to navigate.

Finally, I have concerns about maintaining the viability of the FFELP. In the last Congress, the Education and Workforce Committee made $20 billion in changes to FFELP by eliminating and reducing Federal subsidies to lenders. Just 2 years later, we are back again squeezing student loan lenders. My concern is this legislation is using the reconciliation process as a backdoor attempt to kill FFELP.

Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed that I have to oppose the rule and this legislation. There are a few provisions in this legislation that I believe would help college students and address some concerns in areas of academic need.

However, I cannot support a bill that creates new mandatory spending for institutions at a time when we are addressing the looming crisis with our existing entitlement programs for individuals. I urge my colleagues to vote against the rule and against H.R. 2669.

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