Tag Archives: reconciliation

Chairman Miller’s Remarks on Health Care and Student Loan Reform

(This is a slightly different kind of diary post.  Below are Rep. George Miller’s (D-CA) remarks, as prepared for delivery, during floor debate on the health insurance and student loan reform legislation. Miller is the House author of both pieces of reform.)

Madame Speaker, I rise in support of this truly historic legislation that addresses two of America’s greatest troubles – the crushing costs and high obstacles of obtaining both quality health care and a college education.

Our nation and its economy have suffered from our longstanding failure to make health care and college accessible and affordable to all of the American people.

Americans have waited a long time for health insurance reform – nearly 100 years.

Today, Congress and President Obama will deliver on a central promise, on a dream deferred, on a crucial demand.  

Because of this legislation, for the first time in America’s history, never again will Americans have to worry about losing their health insurance if they change or lose their job.

Insurance companies will not be able to jack up premiums or deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

They will not be able to drop people’s coverage when they get sick – and need it most.

There is no other plan on the table today that offers Americans these vital assurances.

Our reforms will improve the lives of every single American – those with insurance today and those without it.

They will improve our economy by reducing the deficit, creating up to 4 million jobs over the next decade, and unshackling innovative business decisions from crippling health insurance costs.  

Our legislation offers families and employees of small businesses access to choices of affordable health plans; security and control over their health care; vital federal and state consumer protections; accountability for insurance companies; and coverage for 32 million Americans who don’t have insurance today.

Now, we’re pairing these truly historic health insurance reforms with another opportunity that cannot be missed: The chance to make the single largest investment in college affordability ever – and at no cost to taxpayers.

We are going to take tens of billions of dollars that for decades has gone to banks in the federal student loan program and instead give that money directly to students and to pay down the deficit.

For decades, these banks have had one of the sweetest deals in America: They receive taxpayer subsidies to make virtually risk-free loans to students.

As we speak, the federal government is now funding 88 percent of all federal student loan volume.

It has proven to be a more stable lender for students through shaky financial markets and a more cost-effective lender for taxpayers.

Ending these subsidies is not a radical idea.

President Clinton first identified these subsidies as wasteful in the 1990s.

President Bush eyed them in three of his budgets.

And President Obama has correctly proposed ending this boondoggle once and for all by originating all loans through the federal direct lending program – saving taxpayers $61 billion over 10 years.  

And that’s what our legislation accomplishes.

Our reforms are good for students, taxpayers and American jobs.

We will help low and middle-income students pay for college and invest in the support they need to graduate.

We will be more responsible with taxpayer dollars by using $10 billion of these savings for deficit reduction.

And we will end the practice of banks shipping lending jobs offshore.

Our reforms allow private lenders to service 100 percent of direct loans – preserving good jobs. But, unlike loans originated by banks, direct loans can only be serviced by workers in the United States.

That’s why last year, Sallie Mae brought 2,000 jobs they had shipped overseas back home.

It turns out they were competing for – and won – a direct loan servicing contract.

In fact, Sallie Mae has privately told workers at an Indiana servicing center that these reforms will not put their jobs at risk.  

They said a similar thing publicly to an Indiana newspaper.

Sallie Mae is now one of four companies that service 4.4 million direct loans.

With these savings, we invest $36 billion over 10 years to increase the Pell Grant to its highest level ever – including almost $14 billion to protect students from a Pell Grant shortfall.

If we don’t act immediately, eight million students could see their Pell Grants cut by 60 percent next year, and 600,000 students could lose their grants completely.

We will help new borrowers better manage their monthly payments.

We invest in community colleges, we invest in college access and completion programs, and we give vital support to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Schools that play a unique role helping minority students graduate and succeed.

HBCUs graduate 40 percent of African-American students earning math, science, technology and engineering degrees, and 50 percent of African-American teachers.

And, this bill is fully paid for.

With this one move, we can make college more affordable, keep jobs in America, prepare young people for our global economy, and reduce our deficit by billions.

I’d like to thank Ruben Hinojosa, our higher education subcommittee chair, Tim Bishop, and all of our committee members for their tireless work on student loan reform.

And along with all the members of our committee, I’d like to especially thank Rob Andrews, our health subcommittee chair, for his backbreaking work over the last year on health reform.

We almost didn’t get here today.  You know that.

Opponents of health care reform have said anything and done everything to distort the facts, delay the process, and try to put off what Americans have asked for and needed for generations. They have tried to sow fear into the American people.

They cannot win on the merits. And they will continue to distort the facts and use scare tactics as we move forward.

But here we are today. We have made it to the final step in this process — despite all that noise.

And now we face a simple choice.

We can side with America’s families and college students and make health insurance and college more affordable and accessible – while creating millions of jobs and reducing the deficit.

Or, we can side with insurance companies and banks.

That’s it.

That’s the choice.

I’m siding with the American people. I urge each of my colleagues to join me.

Reform the Federal Student Loan Program

(These are the prepared remarks of Education and Committee Chairman George Miller from today’s press conference on the urgent need to include student loan reform as part of the reconciliation.)

Senate Democrats have a very simple choice to make in the next few weeks.

This choice speaks to the true character of our country and of our Congress.

It speaks to what America’s priorities will be for the next generation.

It speaks to fiscal responsibility and fairness.

Here’s the choice. We can continue a student loan program that the Congressional Budget office has documented will waste tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years on a titanic boondoggle in excess subsidies to some of the nation’s rich and most powerful banks.

Or we can do what President Obama suggested in his budget, and what the Congress voted last year to do in its budget resolution.  We can reform the student loan program by taking these wasteful subsides to banks, and redeem the savings for millions of families and students who want a shot at attending college, go to a community college, and attend a school that is crumbling around them.  

It is that simple.

Just consider what this bill would do for students, families – and our economic future.

It would invest tens of billions of dollars in the Pell Grant scholarship.

For millions of Americans, Pell Grants are the pathway to prosperity.

They have become America’s great equalizer – allowing anyone with talent and gumption to get an education and a good job.

There are few greater job creators than a highly skilled workforce.

Our bill would invest billions in school modernization, give urgent help to historically black colleges and Hispanic serving institutions, and boost support for the nation’s bedrock local community colleges.

It would make our community colleges part of the solution to our competitive challenges by giving them the tools they need to prepare students for good jobs with local employers.

Who in good conscience can trade any of this away for billions in excess subsidies for banks?

Now, this is not a radical idea.

In his 2005, 2006 and 2008 budget requests, President George W. Bush recommended reducing these wasteful subsidies by tens of billions of dollars.

President Obama has shown the courage to take this on by insisting we re-deploy all of these subsidies to help students and families.

The 2009 budget resolutions passed by the House and Senate required both chambers to use reconciliation to enact student loan reforms that save taxpayers billions of dollars.

In order to comply with these reconciliation instructions, we would be required to save $1 billion for taxpayers over 5 years.

This legislation would be fully paid for.

But now this promise is at risk.

Critics of this bill, fueled by the banks’ well-heeled lobbyists, have been hard at work fighting to kill it.

They have been busy spreading lots of falsehoods about how this bill might impact the budget, or jobs, or students.

Let me set the record straight, right now.

This bill will not add a penny to the deficit – it will help reduce it. The budget reconciliation instructions require that any student loan reforms return at least $1 billion to the Treasury over 5 years.

It will meet PAY-GO. We are committed to that, and it will be done.

The bill creates and retains jobs.  It maintains a robust and appropriate role for private banks and lenders in servicing loans. Servicing loans through the Direct Loan program will not only preserve most jobs, it will bring jobs back home that can currently be shipped overseas by lenders.

Moving to Direct Loans is a much better use of taxpayer dollars. Consider that right now, between schools that have switched to Direct Loans and emergency federal aid banks are relying on – the federal government is already funding 8.8 of every 10 dollars lent in federal student lending.

The current FFEL system can’t continue.  We saw this two years ago when the markets seized up, students would have been left high and dry if we had not stepped in to provide liquidity.  

It’s also wrong to suggest this is being talked about at the 11th hour.

We have known since last April that reconciliation would be used for this bill.

So this is really what is comes down to now.

The Senate has a choice to do something that is fair and right for American families.

They have a choice to end this system of corporate welfare for banks – a system that has stayed alive because of well-entrenched lobbyists and cozy Washington relationships.

They can either continue to send tens of billions of dollars to banks and a broken system – or they can send those dollars directly to students, at no costs to taxpayers.

This is a moment in history where Senators can either look back and say – we did the right thing for the American people, or they can say we did the bidding of banks.