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Public Statements

Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, here we go again. Another day in the House of Representatives and another day without a jobs bill. It's almost March, and my Republican colleagues who control this House still have not put a meaningful jobs bill on the floor. In fact, their best chance of passing a jobs bill could have been the highway reauthorization bill, but they screwed that up so badly that they had to yank it off the floor before an embarrassing bipartisan defeat.

So what are we doing today? Well, Madam Speaker, today, we're considering a bill targeting Department of Education regulations defining credit hours and setting minimum requirements that all higher education institutions must meet to be considered authorized by a State. We're targeting Department of Education regulations. We're not considering a jobs bill. There's no new, bipartisan highway bill. There's no bill that helps put cops, firefighters, and librarians back to work. And there's no new bill that helps train workers for the future.

The economy may be inching along, recovering slowly, but it still needs some help. We need a real, comprehensive jobs package. Instead, we just get a bill to dismantle a few regulations with no attempt to make our education system better. This is no way to run the House of Representatives.

Let's look at where we've been. They started off the new Congress with their health care repeal and replace, but we're still waiting on the replace part. To be clear, Republicans voted to take away health protections for seniors, they voted to take away health care protections for young people under 26, and they voted to take away health care protections for those with preexisting conditions, but they haven't proposed anything to replace those important provisions.

Since then, the Republican leadership has played legislative Russian roulette with our economy by holding the debt limit discussions hostage, by holding up the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extensions multiple times, and, most recently, by proposing the most partisan highway reauthorization bill I think in the history of this Congress.

On top of that, the Republican leadership has wasted our time by debating resolutions to defund National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood. We have debated resolutions making it easier for unsafe people to carry concealed weapons across State lines. We've spent a good period of time on this House floor debating a bill to reaffirm our national motto. And soon we'll probably vote on a bill to restrict contraception, another attack on women's health by this Republican-controlled House.

Madam Speaker, there are more important things we should be doing, and, yes, education should be something we debate. I'm all for bills improving our education system. In fact, I'd welcome the opportunity to act in a bipartisan way to improve our school systems across the board. What we should be talking about today is college affordability. What we should be talking about today are ways to ensure that every single American student has access to a quality education. And despite what Republican Senator Rick Santorum might think, it's not snobby to try to make sure our students have access to the best education possible.

What we should be considering on the floor of the House today is legislation to extend the tax deduction for tuition and fees that families across this country rely on to help bear the incredible burden of rising tuition costs. This deduction, Madam Speaker, of up to

$4,000 expired at the end of last year, and congressional action is required to extend this tax benefit past the 2011 tax year. But that is not what we are considering today on the House floor.

We should also be considering legislation to prevent the looming increase in subsidized Stafford student loan rates--from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent--that will occur if Congress does not act before July 1, 2012. These need-based loans are critical for students who might otherwise be unable to attend college, and we should act now on legislation to stop the doubling of their interest rates. But, Madam Speaker, that is not what we are doing today.

Republican Governors, including the head of the Republican Governors Association, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, overwhelmingly support President Obama's college education agenda. But in the House of Representatives, all we see is an effort to attack and dismantle the President's initiatives and no attempt to actually make college more accessible and more affordable.

Madam Speaker, this is just another squandered opportunity by this Republican Congress. I issue poscan't say I'm surprised, but I am disappointed. It is time for us to work in a bipartisan way to focus on how to get this economy moving again and to focus on jobs. And when we focus on education, let's focus on issues that will make a real difference in the lives of our young people.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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