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Public Statements

Interest Rate Reduction Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank him for his leadership in presenting a commonsense piece of legislation to ensure that the interest on student loans is not doubled in July, and to pay for that by cutting the subsidies to Big Oil instead of, as the Republicans do, continuing their all-out assault on women's health.

So much of the time that we spend on this floor seems completely irrelevant to America's working families as they're struggling to make ends meet. Imagine them around their kitchen tables as we talk about this, that, and the other thing that seems disconnected from their emergency and urgent needs. What we're talking about today directly relates to what keeps people up at night: their economic security, the education of their children, the health of their families. The list goes on. Some of those are addressed in this legislation.

I think we all agree that the greatest thing the country can do and that a family can do is to invest in

the education of the next generation, the education of our children.

Imagine if we're sitting around that kitchen table as a family, as we are, and we say as a family, in order for you to go to college, we're not going to be able to immunize your little brother or sister, we're not going to be able to have preventative care in terms of screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer--the list goes on and on--for your mom or any other preventative care for men and women in your family. It just would be wrong.

Who are we as a Nation, if that's a statement of our values, to choose between the education of your children and the health of your family? It is just not right. Especially when you have a situation where we had this fight over and over again.

But let me put it in context. In 2007, the Democratic majority in the House, working in a bipartisan fashion with our Republican colleagues, passed a bill that ratcheted down the interest rate to 3.4 percent. We were very proud of that legislation passing with 77 members of the Republican Party voting with the Democratic majority. The bill was signed by then-President George W. Bush, and we all celebrated that legislation.

That is expiring in July, and if no action is taken, those interest rates of 3.4 will go back to the level of 6.8 percent. We had been making that argument over and over again, which is that in our budgeting we must provide for the education of our children in a way that enables them to acquire a higher education should they desire and be qualified to do so and if that is in their interests and in their families' priorities.

Republicans have grown impatient, they've said, with hearing about student loans--don't look at us--until the President went to the public and clearly spelled out the public policy debate that was going on here, which is that in the Republican budget--the Ryan-Republican-Tea Party budget--it enabled the doubling of the interest rates. In the House Democratic budget, we provided for keeping it at 3.4 percent--a big difference if you're sitting at that kitchen table and if you have a college-aged child.

It's about the children and the debts they incur. It's about the families and the parents and the debts that their families incur. Because the President took the issue to the American people, he made the issue too hot to handle, so the Republicans this week are doing an about-face for what they did last week, to vote overwhelmingly for their budget, which now has enabled the interest rates on student loans, the Stafford loans, to double. An about-face.

But what did they do? They said, Okay, we won't allow it to double, but we're going to take the money from women's health.

It should be no surprise to anyone because they have an ongoing assault on women's health. This is in their budget, and this is just a continuation of that; but I think it's important to note the following: that they not only in their bill call for taking the amount of money that would cover the cost of keeping the interest rates at 3.4 percent; they say, while we're at it, let's eliminate the entire fund. Let's eliminate the entire fund for the prevention, for the immunization, for the screening, and for the rest--for the CDC to do its public health work. Let's eliminate it.

So that should tell you something about where their priorities are if they're saying, We stand here, once again, handmaidens of the oil industry, protecting subsidies for Big Oil, and instead we want Mom and the children to pay the price with their health. It's just not right. It's just not right. The President made it clear to the public the difference in our approaches on the student loan issue. Now he has made it clear that he will veto this bill if it contains this pay-for.

Unfortunately, rather than finding common ground in a way to pay for this critical policy, the Statement of Administration Policy says:

This bill includes an attempt to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was created to help prevent disease, detect it early, and manage conditions before they become severe. Women, in particular, will benefit from this prevention fund, which would provide for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

This is already happening. This would have to stop under this bill. So let's back up for a moment and say we all want the most educated population in our country so people can reach their self-fulfillments, whatever they decide those are; so we can be competitive in the world market; so we can have an informed electorate in the spirit of the GI Bill, which educated our soldiers when they came home and created a middle class in our country, which is the backbone of our democracy. In a global economy, it is even more necessary for us to be able to have the skills and trained workforce to compete.

Let's also recognize that nothing brings more money to the Treasury than the education of the American people. Whether it's early childhood, K 12, higher education, postgrad, lifetime learning--nothing brings more money to the Treasury. So it would be a false economy to deter people from seeking more education. It's also adding insult to injury to say, now that we've finally had to fold on the issue and agree with the Democrats that we should keep the interest rates at 3.4 instead of doubling them to 6.8, we're going to put women and children first as those who will pay for that. It's just not right.

I congratulate the President for his message to the American people and for the message of his administration in his Statement of Administration Policy that a veto would be recommended. I urge my colleagues to vote ``no.''


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