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Michael E.
Republican WY

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  • Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Michael B. Enzi

    Posted on 2013-07-10

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    ENZI. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. ENZI. Madam President, I wish to make some comments about the vote we had on the floor awhile ago. I think it is time to stop holding the students of this country hostage 1 year at a time. That is what the bill did that just got turned down for cloture. It kicked the can down the road for a year. There were several Democrats who voted with the Republicans on that one, because they thought it is time to stop kicking the can down the road.

    How do we stop kicking the can down the road? Take a look at the Republican alternative that was offered. The Democratic bill was going to save 40 percent of the students half of the interest rate for 1 year so that 3.44 percent would be their interest rate. The Republican plan solves it for all students getting a loan and it solves it in perpetuity. It does it by making it 3 percent greater than what the Federal Government borrows its money at, which at the present time is 3.66 percent. I submit 3.66 percent is not much higher than 3.44 percent and it is a lot less than 6.88 percent.

    Why do we have a rise in the interest rate to 6.88 percent? The Federal Government, this body and the other body, and the President, decided a way we could fund health care in this country would be to take over the student loan business and then raise the rates to 6.88 percent. It provides money for the Affordable Care Act.

    So we had a vote without having a side-by-side. Nobody got to vote on the 3.66-percent interest rate for everybody in perpetuity, but we got to vote for the 3.44-percent interest rate, which means kicking the can down the road for a year for 40 percent of the students. That is wrong.

    Why didn't we get to vote on both of them? Well, the Republican plan would have had more votes than the Democratic plan. There are people on the other side who don't want to kick the can down the road and who understand the alternative is a reasonable solution to the problem. It would take care of all the students and take care of them from now on, and it provides a solution to the problem.

    I have to say it is pretty clever, that by bringing up this bill by itself and having it defeated on cloture, it solves two problems: No. 1, they get to blame the Republicans. No. 2, the money will still be there for the Affordable Care Act. That means keeping the money and blaming the Republicans. How can it get better than that? It can get better than that if we solve the problem for all of the kids applying for loans this year, not just 40 percent of them, and solve it so they know exactly where the interest rate is going to be at the time they apply and it stays that way on their loan for the whole time they have the loan.

    In future years, as others apply, the interest rate may be higher. The rate will be the same as whatever rate the Federal Government pays to borrow money. We are not going to be able to borrow at the low rates we are borrowing at now, but students will get the same break everybody else does, at just the 3-percent higher interest rate.

    I notice the majority leader changed his vote to no, and that is so he can bring up this bill again. Why would we bring up this bill again without having the alternative bill so people can vote for it, which I think might pass? It is so we can be blamed one more time.

    This isn't supposed to be a blame game around here. This is supposed to be about finding common ground and getting things done. I think there is some common ground; otherwise, there wouldn't be some Democrats joining with Republicans on a bill Republicans proposed, but that is not the way we need to do bills anyway. We need to have the chairman and the ranking member of the appropriate committee sit down and work out a basic bill that can then be amended on the floor--first amended in committee. We are not going through a regular process on a lot of these bills and yet we should be. I assume it would go to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Maybe, since it deals with the health care act, it would go to the Committee on Finance. At any rate, there would be an appropriate committee for it to go to, perhaps both the Finance Committee and the HELP Committee, but it didn't come to either. Neither proposal came to that committee.

    It is time to quit making deals around here and start legislating. That is the way things have been done in America for a couple of hundred years and it is time we did that again. We can get solutions if we go through the regular process.

    It is time to stop kicking the can down the road. I hope we can reach a solution. I hope we get to vote on both proposals and we can see where a majority of the votes go. Slowly, people are coming to realize that a solution for 100 percent of the students taking out loans is better than a solution for 40 percent of the students taking out loans, and one that goes on in perpetuity is better than one that goes on for 1 year.

    Every year in July we say to the students, Your interest rate is going to go up unless we take action, and then we show how one side or the other doesn't want to take the action.

    We have to get this problem solved. There are a lot of other aspects of higher education that need to be solved as well. It is time for that bill to be reauthorized, and it should go through the regular process as well.

    I hope we quit blaming each other and get something done. I personally like the long-term solution for 100 percent of the students instead of half of a solution for 40 percent of the students.

    I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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