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Jul 062013

US House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s Republican address, Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Ks., a mother of two college students urges Senate Democrats to approve bipartisan student loan reform.

Inaction caused the interest rates on many student loans to double on July 1, despite the House working in May to attempt to stop the rate increase.

Here is the full transcript of this week’s Republican address, presented by Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins:

“Hello, I’m Lynn Jenkins, Congresswoman from the Second District of Kansas and Vice-Chair of the House Republican Conference. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Independence Day.

The spirit of 1776 is fresh in our hearts this weekend. America is at its best when it lives up to the blessings our forebears pledged everything to secure. Their ideas have survived and thrived because every generation has worked hard to expand the pursuit of happiness and ensure our children are free to live a better life.

Today these essentials of the American Dream are at risk. Last week, I spoke with hundreds of college students who are concerned they won’t have the same opportunities their parents had. They find it hard to see beyond paying off their education, stretching to afford rent, and finding a job in this tough economy.

That’s why, over the last few months, Republicans made every effort to stop interest rates on some student loans from doubling, as they unnecessarily did on July 1st. For too long, politicians have been in charge of setting these rates, and we keep coming back to cliffs and deadlines like this one. Paying for college is difficult enough without all this uncertainty. I have two kids in college, I know how hard it can be.

So in the spring, when President Obama proposed letting the markets set interest rates instead, the Republican-led House passed a bill reflecting his plan. Republicans in the Senate came to the table with similar ideas. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats attacked the president’s plan, refused to work with us, and allowed this rate hike to take effect, leaving for the July 4th holiday without passing a solution.

Because of this inaction, millions of undergraduates who want to take out a subsidized Stafford loan are now being told they will have to pay an interest rate that’s double what they were expecting.  That’s just not right.  
You deserve a fairer approach, one free of politics that allows you to take advantage of lower rates and have more peace of mind. That’s what we’ve been working on. In the House, we haven’t just talked about it; we’ve actually passed it.  Now we need the Democratic-controlled Senate to act.

On behalf of parents and students across the nation, I call on Senate Democrats to join with us and help pass bipartisan student loan reform when the Senate returns to work next week.  And President Obama should do his part by urging his fellow Democrats in the Senate to work with us.  We will not let up until they agree to do the right thing.

Thank you for listening, and God bless the United States of America.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 082012

ABC NewsUPDATE: The Democrats’ student loan bill, as predicted, has failed to move forward in the Senate.  Cloture on the “motion to proceed” to the bill was not invoked which means the bill will not be formally taken up. The vote was a party-line vote – 52 to 45 with one senator, Olympia Snowe, R-ME., voting present.  Not voting were Sen. Lugar and Sen. Kirk.  Majority Leader Reid changed his vote to “no” in order to enter a motion to reconsider, perhaps indicating that there is a way forward being negotiated. Both parties are currently huddling for their weekly caucus lunch.  

(WASHINGTON) — The Senate is going nowhere fast in attempting to prevent student loan rates from doubling July 1. It is scheduled to vote Tuesday to take up the Stop Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act. But the vote, just to move forward to a debate on the bill, is in jeopardy.

Both Republicans and Democrats believe the subsidized Stafford loan rates should not be doubled from the 3.4 percent to 7.6 percent and agree the lower rate should be extended for at least another year. But both sides cannot agree on how to pay for the $6 billion bill, setting up a nasty battle that will plague Congress in the weeks and months ahead.

Democrats propose paying for the bill by raising the Medicare and Social Security payroll taxes on high-earning stock holders of some privately owned companies. Republicans oppose the measure.

Republicans propose to pay for the bill by getting rid of a preventative health fund that was created in the health care bill. Democrats oppose this and the proposal has no chance of getting through a Democratic-controlled Senate.

Republicans are likely to “filibuster” the Democratic proposal by preventing the bill from proceeding without the 60 votes needed.

Senate Democrats say they are happy to offer Republicans a vote on their alternative pay-for, but first the bill has to be moved forward in the Senate without a Republican filibuster. Meaning the “motion to proceed” Tuesday is an important step Senators must take if they are serious about moving this bill forward in the Senate. Senate Republicans say they are working with Harry Reid to try to lock in a vote on their own bill.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Apr 242012

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) — Wooing the young voters crucial to his re-election, President Obama Tuesday launched a passionate campaign-style appeal to students as he pressed lawmakers to prevent the cost of college from rising.

Speaking to a rowdy crowd at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the president said he understands the financial burdens students face. “Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes,” Obama said. “We didn’t come from wealthy families.  When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt.  When we married, we got poorer together.”

While the president did not call out the presumptive GOP nominee by name, he drew a sharp contrast between his background and that of Mitt Romney, who comes from a wealthier family. “This is something Michelle and I know about firsthand,” Obama said. “I didn’t just read about this….I didn’t just get some talking points about this. I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this.”

“Check this out, all right?  I’m the president of the United States.  We only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago,” he said to laughter from the crowd of roughly 8,000. “That wasn’t that long ago.”

While young voters still overwhelmingly support the president — Obama enjoys a substantial 60- to 34-percent lead over Romney — their interest has waned since 2008.

According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds took a major interest in the election in 2008. Today, just 45 percent have the same level of interest in this presidential election.

Obama is spending Tuesday and Wednesday visiting three key battleground states to push for low-rate college loans, wooing young voters while targeting a financial burden that hits the middle class and threatens the economic recovery.

In North Carolina, Obama urged lawmakers to extend a 2007 law that cut student loan rates to 3.4 percent. If Congress does not act, interest rates will double to 6.8 percent on July 1.

“For each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional thousand dollars in debt,” the president said. “That’s basically a tax hike for more than 7 million students across America, more than 160,000 students here in North Carolina alone.”

Obama is expected to make a similar argument at stops in Colorado and Iowa.

While Romney has come out in support of the extension, the president targeted Republican lawmakers who oppose the measure. “Republicans who run Congress right now have not yet said whether or not they’ll stop your rates from doubling.  We’re two months away,” Obama said, asking those watching to call, email or tweet their members of Congress.

The White House maintains the president’s trip this week is purely official business, but it was hard to ignore Obama’s campaign cadence as he riled up what appeared to be a largely supportive crowd.

“The fact is that since most of you were born, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled. That forces students like you to take out a lot more loans.  There are fewer grants.  You rack up more debt.  Can I get an amen?” the president asked.

“Amen!” the crowd cheered.

“The average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $25,000 in student loan debt.  That’s the average.  Some are more.  Can I get an amen for that?” Obama asked again.

“Amen!” the students replied.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Apr 242012

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Tuesday begins a two-day tour of college campuses in three battleground states — North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa — in which he will press Congress to extend the 2007 law that keeps interest rates on student loans at a lower rate of 3.4 percent.  If Congress doesn’t extend this lower rate, rates will double on July 1 to 6.8 percent.

“Nearly seven and half million students will end up owing more on their loan payments,” the president said in his weekly address.  “That would be a tremendous blow.  And it’s completely preventable.”

As the president prepared for his push, which Democrats hope will also shore up support for the president among younger voters, a group among where enthusiasm for Obama has been lagging. Republicans on Capitol Hill noted that then-Sen. Obama seemed to make the lower interest rates for student loans a lower priority.

When the bill came up for final passage on Sept. 7, 2007, then-Sen. Obama did not vote; he was campaigning for president in California and Oregon.

“It seems not much has changed,” said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.  “Five years ago, just like today, the president put campaigning before governing.  As a result, 50 percent of new graduates can’t find full-time employment in this economy.”

White House officials noted that at the time Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the Senate Democrats running for president — which included not just Obama but then-Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Joe Biden, D-Del., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn. — that he would call them back from the campaigning if their votes were needed.  But they were not for this bill, which passed 78-18.  (Clinton, Biden and Dodd were also no-shows.)

“It’s no secret that Barack Obama ran for President in 2007,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.  “And it’s no secret that he has doubled funding for college scholarships and fought Republican attempts to increase the debt burden for students.”

LaBolt noted that then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also ran for president in 2007, saying the presumptive GOP presidential nominee “was outside of the state of Massachusetts for 212 days his final year in office.”

For his part, Romney on Monday supported the president’s push to extend the lower interest rate for student loans, issuing a statement saying: “Given the bleak job prospects that young Americans coming out of college face today, I encourage Congress to temporarily extend the low rate.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Apr 202012

Official White House photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Move over, Buffett Rule. Interest rates on federal student loans are set to become the next election-year flash point between President Obama and congressional Republicans.

The White House announced Friday that it is launching a major campaign to keep rates on federal Stafford loans at their current level — 3.4 percent — before they’re set to double, by law, on July 1.

The rate change would impact an estimated 7.4 million students, who would each see an additional $1,000 in debt per year at the higher rates, according to the administration.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act, passed in 2007, gradually phased down rates from 6.8 percent over each of four successive academic years, but mandated that the cuts would expire in 2012.  

“At a time when Americans owe more on student loans than credit cards, President Obama believes we must reward hard work and responsibility by keeping interest rates on student loans low so more Americans get a fair shot at an affordable college education,” an administration official said in a statement.  

Obama plans to dedicate his weekly address to urging Congress from preventing the rate hike and will call for a social media blitz on lawmakers using the hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate.

The president will also visit three college campuses next week and appear for the first time on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to discuss the issue.

Obama will speak at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Colorado at Boulder on Tuesday, and will appear at the University of Iowa on Wednesday, the White House said. All three schools are in key battleground states.

Republicans oppose extending the lower student loan rates in part because of the high cost to taxpayers, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates at $6 billion per additional year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio