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Mr. REED. Mr. President, once again, on July 1, millions of college students will see the interest rate double on their student loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent unless Congress takes action. Borrowers will pay an estimated $1,000 more in interest on their loans each year of repayment if Congress fails to act.
Student loan debt is second only to mortgage debt for American families. Now is not the time to add to student loan debt by allowing the interest rate on need-based student loans to double. I am pleased to introduce the Student Loan Affordability Act with my colleagues Senator Al Franken, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Sherrod Brown, and Senator Bernie Sanders to maintain the current 3.4 percent interest rate for the next 2 years, as we work towards a long-term solution in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Last Congress, we narrowly averted a doubling of the interest rate on need-based student loans. It took thousands of calls, letters, and rallies from students and parents across the country and our concerted effort to negotiate a bipartisan solution. However, we were only able to get a temporary, 1-year fix.
The budget passed by the House Republicans assumes a doubling of the interest rate. In stark contrast, the budget resolution we passed last month accommodates legislation to keep rates low.
We need to come together to develop long-term solutions to the growing burden of student loan debt, the rising cost of college, and the need to improve higher education outcomes so that students complete their degrees and get the full benefit of their investment in education. Everyone agrees that college costs are too high and climbing higher. Families will be priced out of a college education, even with grants and loans, if we do not take real action on curbing cost increases.
What we can do right now is reassure students and families that we will not allow the interest rate to double this July at a time when interest rates are at historic lows.
Student loan debt affects millions of Americans. Two-thirds of the class of 2011 graduated owing student loans, with an average debt of $26,000. Student loan debt has passed the $1 trillion mark--exceeding credit card debt. Moreover, the students and families we are trying to help with the Student Loan Affordability Act have demonstrated economic need. Indeed, approximately 60 percent of the dependent students who qualify for subsidized loans come from families with incomes of less than $60,000.
The question before us is will we make the student loan debt burden worse by allowing interest rates to double or will we take action to protect low and moderate income students.
We need to act fast. July 1 is only 81 days away. I urge all our colleagues to join us in supporting the Student Loan Affordability Act.
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Mr. REED. Mr. President, today, along with my colleague Senator Whitehouse, I am introducing the Rhode Island Fishermen's Fairness Act of 2013.
For nearly a decade, I have worked to give the fishermen of my state full participation in the management of the fish stocks that they rely on for their livelihoods.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act established eight regional fishery management councils to give fishermen and other stakeholders the leading role in developing the fishery management plans for federally-regulated species. As such, the councils have enormous significance on the lives and livelihoods of fishermen. To ensure equitable representation, the statute sets out the states from which appointees are to be drawn for each council.
Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the State of Rhode Island was granted voting membership on the New England Fishery Management Council, NEFMC, as NEFMC-managed stocks represent a significant percentage of landings and revenue for the state. However, while Rhode Island's participation in the New England fishery remains important, its stake in the Mid-Atlantic fishery has become more critical. Yet, it does not have voting representation on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, MAFMC, which currently consists of representatives from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Rhode Island's stake in the Mid-Atlantic fishery is hardly incidental. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, data, Rhode Island accounted for approximately 20 percent of the commercial catch from this fishery in 2012, and its landings are greater than the combined total of landings for the States of New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. In fact, New Jersey is the only state currently represented on the MAFMC that lands more MAFMC-regulated species than Rhode Island.
While Rhode Island is represented on some policy-setting committees on the MAFMC, its position on those committees is not guaranteed nor does the state have a vote on matters as they come before the full council. Having that representation can be critically important to Rhode Island as decisions are made on critical stocks like squid, which comprised 40 percent of the state's annual landings in 2012 according to NOAA data, and is a major part of our commercial fishing sector.
This legislation offers Rhode Island that voice. Following current practice, the Rhode Island Fishermen's Fairness Act would create two seats on the MAFMC for Rhode Island: one seat appointed by the Secretary of Commerce based on recommendations from the Governor of Rhode Island, and a second seat filled by Rhode Island's principal State official with marine fishery management responsibility. To accommodate these new members, the MAFMC would increase in size from 21 voting members to 23.
There is precedent for this type of change. North Carolina was added to the MAFMC through an amendment to the Sustainable Fisheries Act in 1996. Like Rhode Island, a significant proportion of North Carolina's landed fish species were managed by the MAFMC, yet the state had no vote on the council.
With mounting economic, ecological, and regulatory challenges, it is more important than ever that Rhode Island's fishermen have a voice in the management of the fisheries on which they depend. I look forward to working with Senator Whitehouse and my other colleagues to restore a measure of equity to the fisheries management process by passing the Rhode Island Fishermen's Fairness Act.
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