September 17, 2009 – H.R. 3221, Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act

This bill eliminates the Federal Family Education Loan program and shifts all student loans to a government-run and taxpayer financed system under the Direct Loan program, as well as creates nine new programs and increases the federal government takeover of early education, higher education, school construction, and more.

BACKGROUND

Currently, the federal government provides both subsidized and unsubsidized loans for higher education (both undergraduate and graduate) using two main programs—the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, and the Direct Loan (DL) program.  The FFEL loan program offers subsidized loans to students from private lenders.  The FFEL program makes it possible for borrowers to get student loans at low interest rates.  In contrast, the DL program uses the federal government as the lender to provide capital for all loans (as well as interest on subsidized loans).  Under the DL program, the Department of Education serves as the lender and funds come directly from the U.S. Treasury.

The Higher Education Act (current law) sets the terms and conditions on DL and FFEL loans, including the interest rate, repayment periods, default and forbearance capabilities.  The FFEL program was created in 1966, and has provided subsidized loans to students for more than 40 years.  With over 2,000 lenders participating in the FFEL program, serving approximately 4,400 institutions, $70 billion in FFEL loans have been made available to students this year.

The DL program began under President Clinton in 1993, and has only captured about 34 percent of the total loan market at its height, and has proven to be less efficient and responsive than the FFEL program.  With approximately 1,700 institutions currently participating in the DL program, DL has made available $22 billion in student loans this year, and many of these schools were forced into the program as the capital markets worsened last year.

In the 110th Congress, the House passed H.R. 2669, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act.  The bill provided new public service loan forgiveness to borrowers in the DL program but did not include the same benefit for borrowers in the FFEL program.  H.R. 2669 temporarily cut interest rates for students who had DL and FFEL loans.  The legislation also cut payments to FFEL lenders just as the capital markets began to seize up during the subprime mortgage crisis, finding some FFEL lenders unable to finance securitizations.

MEMBER CONCERNS

As proposed in President Obama’s FY 2010 budget, H.R. 3221 eliminates the FFEL student loan program that has been the overwhelming choice of students and families for more than 40 years, replacing it with a government-run program.  While Democrats continue to use government takeovers as a panacea to all economic problems, converting all student loans to government subsidized loans is just another way that Democrats are killing jobs, increasing government intrusion, and eroding the rights of the consumer.

Effectively eradicating the private sector competition in the student loan industry and shifting all student loans to the DL program kills jobs and greatly expands the federal government’s control of the educational loan market.  By eliminating the FFEL program, Democrats will limit choices for parents and students seeking educational loans and decrease the quality of service historically provided by private lenders.  In 2007-08, the FFEL program served more than 6.4 million students and parents at 5,000 postsecondary institutions, lending a total of $55.3 billion (or 78 percent of all new federal student loans).

VIEW AMENDMENTS

REPUBLICAN MOTION TO RECOMMIT – PASSED 345-75-2

The motion would recommit H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, back to the House Education and Labor Committee with an amendment.

The amendment would add a Title VI to the bill entitled “Defund ACORN Act,” similar to H.R. 3571, offered by Minority Leader Boehner (R-OH).  The prohibitions in the title state that:

– No federal contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or any other form of agreement may be awarded to or entered into with the organization;

– No federal funds in any other form may be provided to the organization; and

– No federal employee or contractor may promote in any way (including recommending to a person or referring to a person for any purpose) the organization.

A covered organization will include:

– Any organization that has been indicted for a federal or state violation of the laws governing the financing of campaign for election for public office or any law governing the administration of an election for public office, including a law relating to voter registration;

– Any organization that has had its state corporate charter terminated due to failure to comply with lobbying disclosure requirements;

– Any organization that has filed a fraudulent form with a regulatory agency;

– Any organization that employs any applicable individuals in a permanent or temporary capacity, has under contract or retains any applicable individual, or has any applicable individual acting on the organization’s behalf.

The term organization refers to ACORN and its affiliates.

ON FINAL PASSAGE WITH THE MTR LANGUAGE – PASSED 253-171

Published in: on September 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, July 22: H.R. 2920 – Statutory Pay-As-You Go Act

The measure sets in law pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules that would require legislation affecting mandatory spending or tax revenue to be budget neutral, i.e., not increase the deficit. This will only provoke more spending and tax increases.

It requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to maintain a “ledger” of enacted legislation and determine whether presidentially ordered sequestration (automatic, across-the-board spending cuts) would be required to bring the federal budget back into balance.

The bill exempts four tax and spending policy areas from the OMB’s calculation to determine if sequestration is required: any extension of middle-class tax cuts; any “patch” to prevent the alternative minimum tax (AMT) from affecting more taxpayers; changes to the estate tax; and measures to prevent cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.

The measure allows the president to rescind congressional designations of spending as “emergency,” thereby including such spending in OMB’s calculations on the deficit impact of legislation.

CBO has estimated that the bill would increase the deficit because legislation in the four exempt policy areas would be figured on the basis of changes from current policy, not from current law, and because of other provisions of the measure that would change how the deficit is calculated.

Ryan (R-WI) Amendment:

Highlights of the amendment, which would replace the underlying bill, are as follows:

Discretionary Spending Controls: The amendment establishes limits on discretionary spending over the FY 2010-2014 period.  The limit would allow discretionary spending to grow at the rate of inflation, which is what is currently assumed in CBO’s baseline (though Congress usually enacts a higher spending level). 40% of the federal budget consists of discretionary spending, and the underlying bill completely exempts such spending from the PAYGO requirement.

Total Spending Limit: The amendment establishes a total spending limit, expressed as a percentage of GDP, for each year over the ten-year budget window.  Through FY 2013 the limit would accommodate CBO’s baseline.   In 2009, federal spending will amount to approximately 28% of GDP, according to the most recent projections.  Under the spending limit set by this amendment, this would decline to 21.7% of GDP by 2013.  It would stay at that level (or 21.8% in a couple years) for every succeeding year.   Spending above the limit would be subject to sequestration.

Deficit Limits: The legislation establishes deficit limits, expressed as a percentage of GDP, as follows:  8% of GDP in 2010, 6% of GDP in 2011, 4% of GDP in 2012, and 3% of GDP in 2013 and in each succeeding year.  These limits would also be enforced via sequestration.  According to the Budget Committee Republicans, these limits provide for $2.4 trillion of deficit spending compared to the President’s budget.

VOTE ON RYAN AMENDMENT: FAILED 169-259

VOTE ON FINAL PASSAGE OF H.R. 2920: PASSED 265-166

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, June 26: H.R. 2454 – The American Clean Energy and Security Act

This legislation aims to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.

Possible Concerns

National Energy Tax: This is a tax that will affect constituents in every aspect of their lives. From transportation, to food, to electricity, to income – this is the ultimate regressive consumption tax to the tune of nearly $3,000 per year according to the Heritage Foundation. The costs per family for the whole energy tax aggregated from 2012 to 2035 are estimated to be $71,493.

Exacerbates the Economic Crisis: Studies from numerous independent research groups, including MIT, the Heritage Foundation, and CRA International, all agree that implementing a massive cap and tax scheme will cost millions of jobs, reduce earnings for the average U.S. worker, and devastate GDP.

Massive Job Losses: According to the Heritage Foundation, employment will be lower by 1,105,000 jobs per year. In some years, the national energy tax will reduce employment by nearly 2.5 million jobs.

Winners & Losers:
The bill transfers wealth from rural areas to cities. States like California, Washington, and New Jersey would receive more emission credits than they need, enabling them to sell surplus credits to smaller facilities in states like Ohio that receive maybe half of the credits they need – making the rich, richer, and the poor, poorer.

Little Environmental Impact:
The bill will cost consumers trillions of dollars, while reducing, by a very small amount the carbon dioxide that is contained in our atmosphere. World-wide emission reductions would be negligible without the full participation of all nations. Additionally, just because the government requires a certain decrease in 1 emissions within a certain timeframe, does not mean such decreases can occur in that time period.

Green Jobs Are a Proven Failure:
According to a recent study that reviewed the impact of “green jobs” in Spain, the U.S. can expect 2.2 jobs to be destroyed for every 1 renewable job financed by the government. Only 1 in 10 of the jobs actually created through green investment is permanent, and since 2000, Spain has spent 753,778 U.S dollars to create each “green job,” including subsidies of more than $1,319,783 per wind industry job.

Free Money to Select Corporate Titans: Government-run “cap and trade” is, by definition, a central economic planning scheme in which the government decides which industries and companies deserve more or fewer credits and what business factors and economic outputs are “necessary.” Small business and rural interests never had a seat at the table when discussions occurred on how to craft H.R. 2454.

Creates a Derivatives Market for Companies like AIG:
Companies like AIG and ENRON will be participating in a new derivatives market that is much more volatile than housing or natural gas. This new unregulated derivates market will be more perilous for companies like these than the traditional ones that got them into trouble in the first place. In addition, since the created artificial market contains no transparency, it is more likely to attract traders intent on imposing Ponzi schemes in the same spirit of Bernie Madoff and swindle thousands of Americans.

Devastates Rural America: According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the monthly residential electricity bills in 25 states will increase 15 to 28 percent for every $20/ton of carbon dioxide allowances. Rural households spend 58% more on fuel than urban residents as a percentage of their income. The Heritage foundation estimates farm income will drop by $50 billion by 2035.

Concedes to the Competition:
Currently, China accounts for 85% of global growth in coal each year and is the world’s largest annual emitter of greenhouse gases. China’s energy usage rose by 7.2% last year and they are building approximately two coal fired power plants per week to keep up with demand. Recently, at a U.N. conference, the Chinese government’s advisory panel on climate change asserted that the cap and tax targets were too low by stating. Given that, it is natural for China to have some increase in its emissions, so it is not possible for China in that context to accept a binding or compulsory target. In addition, India will not agree to any cap on their total energy production, and many believe India will double their coal-fired-capacity by 2030.

Discriminates Against Developing Nations: The bill creates a new program under USAID to provide U.S. foreign aid to developing countries for their efforts to adapt to climate change. Essentially, the bill is sending taxpayer funds to encourage third world nations to not develop carbon emitting energy sources – keeping them at a competitive disadvantage from developed nations for even more decades to come.

Establishes an Unrealistic Renewable Energy Standard (RES): “Cap and tax” does not take into account the fact that additional hydropower, nuclear and advanced fossil coal power plants cannot be deployed quickly enough to meet expected growth in electricity demand while also dramatically reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Since renewable technology accounts for a small percentage of energy demand, consumers can expect not only higher rates, but more transmission problems during peak hours of demand. Additionally, the bill preempts at least 23 state renewable electricity standards.

Davis-Bacon: “Cap and tax” expands Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements to many provisions of the bill. This policy ahs been shown to increase public construction costs by anywhere from 5 to 38 percent above projected costs for the same project in the private sector.

Bloated Bureaucracy:
The bill establishes a myriad of new federal agencies intertwined between at least 21 established agencies with the mission of reallocating trillions of taxpayer dollars in a supposedly fair and efficient manor. According to the U.S Chamber of Commerce, the bill will impose 397 new federal regulations that require traditional agency rulemakings.

Countless Federal Mandates: The bill imposes over a thousand mandates and even mandates efficiency requirements on electric appliances like Jacuzzis.

PASSED – 219-212 – SEE ROLL CALL VOTE

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 2:45 pm  Comments (6)  

Wednesday, May 13: H.R. 2187—21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act

H.R. 2187 would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Education to make grants to state educational agencies for the modernization, renovation, or repair of public school facilities.
Some conservatives, including Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member and RSC Member Buck McKeon (R-CA), have expressed various concerns about the legislation.  On May 6, 2009, he released the following statement:
“It costs too much.  It borrows too much.  It controls too much.  And it’s an area that, as federal legislators, we should not be intruding upon…If passed, this bill could divert funding from the Title I program for disadvantaged students.  It also could take money away from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.”
The Committee press release states the following concerns with the bill and can be found here:
  • Nationalizes and regulates school construction;
  • Threatens state, local, and private support for educational infrastructure;
  • Jeopardizes Congress’ ability to reduce federal spending, pushing the country further into debt;
  • Increases project costs through imposition of Depression-era Davis-Bacon wage mandates;
  • Siphons resources from longstanding education priorities and fails to improve academic achievement.

PASSED 275-155

Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, March 11: S. 22 – Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009

S. 22 authorizes the Secretary of Interior to study, establish, and redesignate numerous National Parks, National Wildernesses, National Heritage Areas, National Trails, National Scenic River designations, and codify the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS).

It also authorizes land conveyances and exchanges, federal boundary adjustments, memorials, museums, reclamation projects, and commissions. Additionally, the bill authorizes programs for ocean exploration, local water infrastructure, underwater research, and paralysis research.

It’s comprised of over 165 separate bills introduced in the 110th Congress. Senate leaders created an omnibus bill to circumvent “holds” Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) placed on a number of these individual bills because he believed they would authorize wasteful spending, block energy development, and infringe on property rights.

The cost of the bill authorizes over $5.5 billion over 5 years.

S. 22 is being considered under a special suspension process that suspends all House rules.  This process is reserved for noncontroversial bills, limits debate to only 40 minutes and does not allow any amendments. So essentially, members were forced to vote yay or nay without the bill undergoing the scrutiny of the normal legislative process.

KEY CONCERNS:

  • Blocks millions of acres from new oil and gas leasing, logging, mining, and all other business activity in these areas.
  • Eliminates 1.2 million acres from mineral leasing and energy exploration in Wyoming alone – withdrawing 331 million barrels of recoverable oil and 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from domestic energy supply.
  • Designates more than 2 million acres of land as wilderness areas; permanently eliminating human access for energy exploration or recreational opportunities.
  • Eliminates a proposed terminal site for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Massachusetts by designating a river that runs through a city as “wild and scenic”.
  • Authorizes $5.5 billion of new discretionary spending over five years and $900 million of direct spending.
  • Makes collecting fossils an illegal activity, subjecting thousands of hobbyists to 5 years in federal jail.

PORK PROJECTS:

  • $3.5 million to the city of St. Augustine, FL for a birthday party
  • $200,000 for a tropical botanical garden in Hawaii
  • $250,000 to study the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton in the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • $37 million for a park in New Jersey that is not even supported by the National Park Service.

ON PASSAGE OF S.22: FAILED 282-144 (2/3rds required for passage)

See Roll Call Vote

Published in: on March 11, 2009 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, February 13: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Conference Report)

Prior to the vote on final passage of this spending bill, Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) brought forth a motion to recommit the conference report back to the conference committee with instructions to:

(1)     accept section 1008 of subtitle A of division B of the Senate amendment (relating to above-the-line deduction for interest on indebtedness with respect to the purchases of certain motor vehicles), and

(2)     accept section 1009 of subtitle A of division B of the Senate amendment (relating to above-the-line deduction for State sales tax and excise tax on the purchase of certain motor vehicles).

Following this vote, the House will vote on final passage of the $787 billion economic “stimulus” package

PASSED 246-183

On final passage of H.R. 1: PASSED – 246-183 – SEE ROLL CALL VOTE

For a more detailed look into what this spending package will cost the American people, check out the summary put together by THE COMMITTEE ON THE BUDGET, REPUBLICAN CAUCUS

Published in: on February 13, 2009 at 7:04 pm  Comments (4)