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Interest Rate Reduction Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COURTNEY. Thank you, Mr. Tierney. I want to just, first of all, begin by recognizing your leadership and, particularly, George Miller's leadership back in 2007 when we passed the College Cost Reduction Act which reduced an interest rate of 6.8 percent, which was set as a result of a Republican Congress in 2002 which passed a Budget Reconciliation Act locking in that higher rate.

The College Cost Reduction Act has saved 15 million students in this country higher debt levels because we cut that rate to 3.4 percent. Sadly, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, voted against that measure. Sadly, my good friend from Minnesota, the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, voted against that measure in 2007.

It was well understood that it had a 5-year sunset, like a lot of programs and tax policies in this Congress. People were complaining about the cliff we created.

Well, how about the Bush tax cuts? That's got a $4 trillion cliff on December 31 because the majority party, when they enacted the Bush tax cuts, sunset that measure.

So here we are today, 64 days away from the rates doubling, and we're now suddenly seeing the majority party get religion on this subject. As Mr. Miller pointed out a minute-or-so ago, in fact, the Ryan budget, which the Republicans lined up as a party to pass two or three weeks ago, locked in the higher rate at 6.8 percent for 2013. That was built into the Ryan budget.

In addition, it doubled down on higher education affordability by cutting the Pell Grant award from $6,000 to $5,000. That is the Republican higher education platform.

But, thankfully, we have a President who stood on that platform on January 24 and challenged this Congress to protect that lower rate. And because we did not get a hearing, we didn't get a bill, we didn't get a markup, we got no flicker of action by the leadership of this Chamber, he went on the road and talked to the people of this country, like Presidents before him, like Harry Truman and others, because that was the only way you were going to turn this body around was with external pressure to make sure that middle class families knew what the heck was going on, which was nothing.

I started this countdown clock at 110 days when we were waiting for this debt level to go up, and there was a reason for that, because 130,000 petition signatures were dropped off at the Speaker's office at day 110, and we heard nothing from that date when, again, overwhelming college campus signatures arrived at this Congress. And now today we're down to day 64. They're feeling the political heat.

Good for you, Mr. President, for raising this issue and forcing this body to address one of the biggest challenges our Nation faces. And yet they come up with a pay-for that is a disgraceful, grotesque pay-for that goes after women and children in the name of protecting student loans.

As Mr. Miller said, thank goodness the student leaders who have been leading the fight to protect this lower rate have stood up and said no way.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. TIERNEY. I yield the gentleman another 15 seconds.

Mr. COURTNEY. Thank you, that's all I need.

And I would just say that the President responded to that call a few minutes ago by indicating that this measure is dead. It will be vetoed. It's not going anywhere.

Let's get back to work and come up with a real fix and solve this crisis for the American people.


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