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Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NELSON of Florida. I thank the chairman and the ranking member, the Senator from Wyoming, for all their hard work on bringing this important legislation to the floor.

Mr. President, I wanted to try to paint a personal face on some of the students whom I have met this past week on how it is going to impact them. But let me just set the table by saying we voted on this back in 2007 in order to give some relief to students, and we cut the loan interest from 6.8 to 3.4 for undergraduate Stafford loans.

The whole idea was, in this time of economic trial, that we would give some little break to students. Indeed, it is and has been a break. It is something on the average of $1,000 a year we were looking at a student saving in extra interest payments on these loans. When it comes right down to the personal stories, they are wrenching.

At the University of Florida, meeting with a group of students this past week, a young woman--I will not use her name because she just broke down in tears--pointed out how not only did she have Stafford loans but that her mom--who had gone through school as an adult raising a family--had gotten a degree in computer science and could not get a job, was going back to school because she had an LPN associate degree and wants a registered nurse degree where she can get a job. So the mom and the daughter both had a considerable number of loans. This young woman absolutely broke down as to what it was going to be in the way of financial burden.

Over at the University of South Florida in Tampa, student body president Matthew Diaz said: You are cutting down the dreams of an entire generation.

Another student at USF, Emmanuel Catalan, a political science major, said he is the first in his family to attend college. He questions, if we don't give this break on interest, whether his brother and other members in his family are going to be able to pursue higher education.

Another student, Austin Prince, a sophomore microbiology and Chinese major, wondered how in the world students are going to make it in this kind of economy if they are mired in debt. He said: It reduces consumer buying power if we are paying off loans for 20 years.

At the University of Florida, Madison Todd, a political science major, said she took out the maximum amount of loans available to attend the University of Florida, and her family has been scraping together everything they could in order that she could continue her education.

Why is this important? Can we remember back to World War II, when we defeated two enemies on either side of the globe and all those GIs came home, and for the first time we had a major part of American youth under the GI bill going

into college. What did that do? America was at the pinnacle of her power and influence in the world. Then, with that generation of young people getting educated as they never had before, all of a sudden we had an expanding middle class as we went into the 1950s and the 1960s.

We will also remember that was a time of attention to high technology because we suddenly found ourselves behind the Soviets in the space race, with Sputnik and then Gagarin going up. All the more kids went into math and science and technology and look what that spawned in the generations to come because of education. A lot of that came directly out of the GI bill. Are we now to adopt policies that are going to reverse that trend?

We tried to take care of it in a diminishing economy, as we slipped into the recession back in 2007, by saying it is a matter of policy that we should lower interest rates for students who want to get their education. Here we are. What this boils down to is how are we going to pay for it? It costs $6 billion for 1 year.

The House of Representatives has taken a position and that has been discussed here. Their position is take it out of the health care bill. When we take it out of health care, we are taking it out of diabetes screening, heart disease screening, cancer screening for breast and cervical cancer. Do we want to do that? I don't think so.

Do we want to take it out of antitobacco programs to try to keep kids from getting hooked on tobacco? I don't think so.

Do we want to take it out of childhood immunizations, where the spending of $1 on childhood immunizations by the Federal Government saves the government $16 in the long run? That is a ratio of 1 to 16 because of children not getting the diseases they were immunized against. Do we want to take it out of that? I don't think so.

What have we come up with in the Senate? We came up with a narrow part of the tax-paying public, subchapter S corporation individuals who pay individual tax--not corporate tax--and only those in a joint return above $250,000 gross income. They would do what? They would pay the payroll tax, Medicare, and Social Security that they do not pay under the existing law because they are treated as if they were a corporation instead of a partner which, in effect, they are, save for the tax laws.

That is the choice. If this motion does not get 60 votes in order to break the filibuster or even if it does, we have to reconcile the pay-for for the $6 billion this student loan interest bill will cost.

It is my hope that common sense, that bipartisanship, that nonideological rigidity would rule the day and that we would simply ask what is best for our people and for our country.

I yield the floor.

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