Capitol Building

Morning Action: Student Loan Fight Brewing

STUDENT LOANS.  For Congress, the best solution on student loans would be to work toward getting the government out of the student loan industry all together.  This would prevent taxpayers from being on the hook for student loans that are never repaid.  Nonetheless, they are considering options that would keep the federal government involved to varying degrees to determine student loan interest rates (sub. req’d):

Another partisan fight over federal student loan interest rates looms on the House floor today as Republicans try to shift the program to a market-based approach. The GOP bill was based on a proposal in Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget request to peg interest rates to 10-year Treasuries. The key distinction is the bill would allow rates to fluctuate with the market and be reset each year. Democrats want to eliminate some uncertainty by setting rates on the Treasury’s actual cost of borrowing and then fixing them for the life of the loan. In its veto threat, the White House said the bill would burden students from lower-income families with potentially onerous rate increases. Critics have also noted the legislation lacks Obama’s proposal to extend repayment options to borrowers who have already left school. Even if the bill makes it out of the House, its prospects are grim in the Democratic Senate, which could adopt a plan (S 953) to simply extend the current 3.4-percent rate or to address rates as part of a reauthorization the Higher Education Act.

Moreover, the House student loan bill has already faced a veto threat from the Obama administration (sub. req’d):

The low, 3.4 percent fixed interest rate for student loans is slated to double July 1, when a one-year extension (PL 112-141) that Congress passed last year, after a three-month fight, expires.

Although President Barack Obama proposed in his fiscal 2014 budget to avert the looming hike by moving to a market-based variable interest rate, as the House bill would do, a Statement of Administration Policy released Wednesday contends that legislation (HR 1911) is “the wrong approach.”

“The bill would not guarantee low rates for today’s students,” the White House statement said. “A rate that continues to vary after the loan has already been taken out would create uncertainty and lessen transparency for students and their families.”

OBAMACARE.  A recent poll indicates that most people want to go back to a pre-Obamacare system and that most say their health care situation will be worse under Obamacare:

Majorities of American voters say their family will be worse off under the Affordable Care Act, and think it would be better to go back to the pre-ObamaCare health care system.

A Fox News poll released Wednesday finds that while 26 percent of voters say their health care situation will be better under the new law, twice as many — 53 percent — say it will be worse.  Another 13 percent say it won’t make a difference.  

Almost all Republicans (85 percent) and just over half of independents (51 percent) say they will be worse off under ObamaCare.  Nearly half of Democrats expect to be better off (48 percent), while about one-quarter believe they will be worse off (24 percent).

Young voters and seniors are pessimistic about ObamaCare.  Majorities of those under age 35 and those 65+ think things will be worse under the 2010 health care law.  

That helps explains why a 56-percent majority wants to go back to the health care system that was in place in 2009. 

AMNESTY.  The Heritage Foundation’s study on the cost of amnesty to the American taxpayer demonstrates that it could amount to $6.3 trillion over the long term.   Even critics whose estimates are lower acknowledge the cost will be trillions of dollars.  Still, Heritage has also demonstrated that the cost may in fact be higher than $6.3 trillion because:

1. The number of illegal immigrants may be higher.

2.  Medical and welfare inflation in future years is likely to increase future costs.

3. Because the analysis measured costs mainly by household, it likely excluded about 20 percent of illegal immigrants.

4.  Amnesty may act as a “magnet” for future illegal immigrants.

KEYSTONE.  House lawmakers passed the Northern Route Approval Act (H.R. 3) (sub. req’d):

House lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday that would green-light construction of the Keystone XL pipeline’s northern route, after Republicans repeatedly beat back Democrats’ efforts to modify the bill.

The legislation (HR 3) would deem presidential approval unnecessary for the northern leg of the 1,700-mile-long pipeline, essentially circumventing President Barack Obama’s 2012 decision to conduct further review on the project.

“The bill simply takes back congressional authority, constitutional congressional authority for us to be able to pass legislation, to move things forward and, in this case, to move this pipeline forward,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa.

The House passed the bill 241-175.

This was the right move, as we have explained:

The administration has stalled Keystone XL’s construction and have prevented a huge boost to the American energy supply as well as long-term job creation. The legislation before the House would allow this important energy development project to move forward without problematic hurdles from energy obstructionists.

IRS.   White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough agreed that they would not reveal the finding that the IRS had improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups “until the independent audit was completed and made public, in part to protect him from even the appearance of trying to influence an investigation”:

This account of how the White House tried to deal with the IRS inquiry — based on documents, public statements and interviews with multiple senior officials, including one directly involved in the discussions — shows how carefully Obama’s top aides were trying to shield him from any second-term scandal that might swamp his agenda or, worse, jeopardize his presidency.

The episode also offers a glimpse into the workings of Obama’s insular West Wing, which has struggled to cope in recent weeks with the IRS scandal, the continued fallout from last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the Justice Department’s tracking of journalists as part of leak investigations.

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