Today, Rules Committee Ranking Member Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) slammed House Republicans for wasting time on partisan energy bills instead of acting to stop student loan interest rates from doubling. Student loan rates are set to double on Monday, July 1st from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Congress is set to recess on Friday, June 28 and still has not reached an agreement to stop the rate hike.
"If we don't act, young people across this country will see their college loan rates double next week," said Rep. Slaughter. "Yet here we are again wasting the public's time, money, and patience on partisan Tea Party bills that have no chance of passing in the Senate. It's outrageous that after passing these messaging bills, the Majority is planning on taking a week-long break while American students are about to be hit with higher loan rates."
Tonight, the Rules Committee is expected to approve two deeply flawed energy bills. H.R. 2231, the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, is a partisan bill loaded with giveaways to Big Oil at a time when domestic oil production is at a 20-year high and natural gas production is at an all-time high. The United States is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer in just seven years. Despite this, H.R. 2231 would require new, unsafe drilling off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, and in Bristol Bay, the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska. Furthermore, there is no evidence that more drilling will lead to lower gas prices. From CBS News: "A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump."
The second bill, H.R.1613, The Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreements Authorization Act is a flawed bill that would allow the implementation of a drilling agreement between the United States and Mexico, but contains a "poison pill" provision. The bill would repeal a section of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that requires oil companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. This provision is designed to prevent bribery and to protect investors by letting them know if a company is making questionable payments to a government that could expose the company to civil liability or criminal sanctions. H.R. 1613 would allow companies to keep these payments secret, a move that could encourage bribery of foreign officials for drilling rights. Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources tried to remove this damaging provision from the legislation, but were defeated on a party-line vote.
"Instead of opening up our coastlines to more drilling and making it easier for oil companies to bribe foreign governments for drilling rights, we should be focused on stopping this unfair rate hike on American students struggling to afford a college education," Rep. Slaughter said. "One hundred and ninety-five Democratic Members of Congress have signed a discharge petition to force a vote on stopping the interest rate from doubling; if just 23 Republicans joined us, we could protect students across America from this rate hike."