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STOP THE STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATE HIKE ACT OF 2012
(Senate - May 24, 2012)

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[Pages S3609-S3611]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




          STOP THE STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATE HIKE ACT OF 2012

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to S. 2343, which the clerk will report.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (S. 2343) to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 
     to extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct 
     Stafford Loans, and for other purposes.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there will be 10 
minutes of debate equally divided and controlled between the two 
leaders or their designees.
  The Republican leader.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, we are in a rather ridiculous staring 
contest, waiting for our Democratic friends to offer a proposal that 
can actually pass when we already have one right in front of us. We 
have wasted actually 2 weeks on this student loan issue for no good 
reason. Neither I nor the ranking member has heard a word from the 
Democrats on how they propose to resolve the issue and actually prevent 
the interest rate from rising.
  As we learned earlier this week, the President doesn't seem to even 
talk to his committee chairmen anymore. All of this suggests that the 
White House doesn't want to solve the problem; that it would rather 
allow these rates to double in a few weeks so he can run around all 
summer pointing the finger at those Republicans in the Senate.
  I would still like to believe that is not the case. We had a chance 
to talk to the President about this and other issues last week down at 
the White House. I am convinced he would like to get a solution. Yet 
the fact is, all he would have to do is simply pick up the phone and 
tell the Democratic leadership that we would like to get this done, and 
I am pretty confident we could work it out. Unfortunately, we cannot 
just wait around hoping the President is going to pick up the phone. 
College students cannot wait either. They want us to resolve the issue 
now, and I know we can.
  To move the ball forward, I would say to my colleague, the majority 
leader, if he agrees with me--Senator Harkin and Senator Enzi just did 
a good job with coming up with a bipartisan solution to the FDA bill. I 
am confident they could do the same thing on the student loan issue. 
They are the chairman and the ranking member of the committee that 
oversees student loan legislation. I have a lot of confidence in their 
ability to do it.
  I am going to proffer a consent agreement that I think would allow us 
to go forward. My colleague from Tennessee will take the balance of our 
time after I have concluded.
  I ask unanimous consent that following the conclusion of the two 
scheduled votes on the student loan bill, which we are about to have, 
the next order of business be a Harkin-Enzi bill dealing with the issue 
of the current student loan rate; provided further that no motion to 
proceed to other items be in order unless agreed to by both leaders.
  The purpose of this consent agreement I have just proffered is to 
allow Senator Harkin and Senator Enzi to negotiate on this important 
issue, the increase in the student loan rates, and to keep the Senate 
focused on how to resolve this issue in a timely way before the rate 
goes up. The bill they would negotiate would be the next order of 
business, but it would also provide that both leaders could agree to 
allow the Senate to work on other measures if necessary as those 
student loan discussions continue.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Mr. REID. I am going to use the leader time, not the 5 minutes we 
were allocated.
  Madam President, we have all heard of reverse engineering. What we 
just heard is reverse reasoning. This is one of the most interesting 
things I have heard--that makes no sense. We have been trying to get on 
this bill for weeks. The Republicans have refused to allow us to get on 
the bill.
  The student loan issue is important. We should have already completed 
this--had we been allowed to get on the bill--but we were not allowed 
to get on the bill. We were faced with one of our many filibusters--
scores of them. Not one, two, three or four, scores of them. This is 
another example of them stopping us from legislating on a bill. Now to 
come here and say we could have been doing something--my friend knows 
the rules of this Senate as well as I do. He knows his suggestion is 
absurd.
  I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.


                           Amendment No. 2153

  Mr. McCONNELL. On behalf of Senator Alexander I call up amendment No. 
2153.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       The Senator from Kentucky [Mr. McConnell], for Mr. 
     Alexander, for himself, Mr. McConnell, Mr. Enzi, Mr. 
     Barrasso, Mr. Blunt, Mr. Coats, Mr. Cochran, Mr. Cornyn, Mr. 
     Heller, Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Isakson, Mr. Johanns, Mr. Roberts, 
     Mrs. Hutchison, Mr. Rubio, and Ms. Ayotte, proposes an 
     amendment numbered 2153.

  The amendment is as follows:

                (Purpose: In the nature of a substitute)

       Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
     following:

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Interest Rate Reduction 
     Act''.

     SEC. 2. INTEREST RATE EXTENSION.

       Subparagraph (D) of section 455(b)(7) of the Higher 
     Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1087e(b)(7)(D)) is amended--
       (1) in the matter preceding clause (i), by striking 
     ``2012'' and inserting ``2013''; and
       (2) in clause (v), by striking ``2012'' and inserting 
     ``2013''.

     SEC. 3. REPEALING PREVENTION AND PUBLIC HEALTH FUND.

       (a) In General.--Section 4002 of the Patient Protection and 
     Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 300u 11) is repealed.
       (b) Rescission of Unobligated Funds.--Of the funds made 
     available by such section 4002, the unobligated balance is 
     rescinded.

     SEC. 4. COMPLIANCE WITH STATUTORY PAY-AS-YOU-GO ACT OF 2010.

       The budgetary effects of this Act, for the purpose of 
     complying with the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, shall 
     be determined by reference to the latest statement titled 
     ``Budgetary Effects of PAYGO Legislation'' for this Act, 
     submitted for printing in the Congressional Record by the 
     Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, provided that such 
     statement has been submitted prior to the vote on passage.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Madam President, on July 1, 7 million students getting 
new loans to go to college, the rate for interest will go from 3.4 to 
6.8. This is an amendment to get a result. This is the House-passed 
bill. President Obama

[[Page S3610]]

says he wants to freeze the rate for a year. Governor Romney says he 
wants to freeze the rate for a year. The House of Representatives has 
voted to freeze the rate for a year. A vote yes on the House-passed 
bill will permit us to send it to them and quickly send it to the 
President, he will sign it, and we solve the problem.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, while I appreciate the confidence the 
Republican leader has in the ability of Mr. Enzi and me to get things 
done, frankly, we are confronted now with two votes. Which way do we 
want to go? What they are proposing is that we totally end, totally 
eliminate all of the prevention and wellness money that we have out 
there in the wellness fund.
  What would this do? We have vaccinations for children, immunizations, 
smoking cessation programs, colorectal screenings, diabetes prevention, 
breast cancer screening, obesity prevention--all funded by this 
Prevention and Wellness Fund. Not one of those would be funded from 
that fund if that amendment passes.
  The choice is very clear on the two amendments we have coming up. We 
can either vote to close a tax loophole that allows wealthy tax dodgers 
not to pay their fair share of taxes--we can close that loophole and 
keep the interest rates at 3.4 percent--or, as the Republicans want to 
do, totally eliminate the Wellness and Prevention Fund and end the 
money that we are putting into diabetes prevention and breast cancer 
and colorectal screening and all the things I mentioned.
  I do not think the choice could be more clear to the American people 
about the direction we ought to go. Close the tax loophole. Keep the 
prevention fund in there. Keep our people healthy.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, we have 2 minutes left. I will use one 
of them.
  Our friends on the other side have their usual solution to almost any 
problem: Let's put some more taxes on small business men and women in 
America during a time of the greatest recession we have had.
  We have a better idea for how to pay for this bill. We will take some 
of the savings the Congressional Budget Office said they found when 
they took over the student health program in the health care bill--
instead of giving the students the benefit of those savings, they spent 
it on government. They spent $8.3 billion on the health care bill. We 
will give back to the students enough money to pay for this freezing of 
the rate.
  We will not tax the small businesspeople. We will have a little left 
over, and we will reduce the debt. Then we can send our bill to the 
House, they will pass it like that, send it to the President, and the 
problem is solved.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.
  Mr. REED. Madam President, as Senator Harkin pointed out, the 
Republican proposal goes right to the heart of prevention, and that 
will have two effects. It will deny critical services to families all 
across this country, and it will do something else--it will deny us the 
chance to bend that proverbial cost curve. If we do not control those 
costs, we will be in a fiscal disaster. The proposal they are making 
does not make sense. We have proposed to close a tax loophole that has 
been described by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration 
as a multibillion-dollar employment tax shelter.
  We have restricted it to the people who are receiving over $200,000 a 
year. This is not small business men and women. This is not the corner 
hardware store. These are lobbyists. These are lawyers who have 
craftily used subchapter S corporations to avoid paying payroll taxes.
  This loophole has been criticized on the editorial pages of the Wall 
Street Journal. This is no ``just raise taxes.'' This is trying to find 
a loophole which has been criticized by the right as well as the left 
to pay for and ensure that we do not double the interest rate on 
students. I cannot think of a clearer choice: Reject the Republican 
proposal; accept our proposal; do not allow the subsidized student loan 
interest rate to rise on July 1.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senate will be in order. The Senator from 
Tennessee.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. How much time is remaining?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. There is 1 minute 20 seconds.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. It is reassuring to me my friend on the other side of 
the aisle is reading the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. I 
am sure that will have some constructive benefit over the next several 
months. But here is the bottom line, a result. This is the same as the 
House-passed bill which freezes interest at 3.4 percent for a year. We 
send it to the House, down to the President, he signs it, the problem 
is solved. Instead of raising taxes on small businesspeople, we give 
back to students the money they should have had the benefit of when the 
other side took over the whole student loan program before.
  If you want a result, please vote yes. If you want more debate and 
delay, vote no.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. HARKIN. The President has already said if the Republican measure 
were to pass and sent to him, he would veto it. That is a nonstarter. 
Surely my friend from Tennessee does not want to cut out all of this 
funding that we do for hepatitis screening and colorectal screening, 
diabetes prevention, vaccination for our kids, all of which are funded. 
All of that would be ended by their amendment.
  I do not know what my friend is talking about in terms of student 
money and this and that. Their provision takes all of this money out of 
the Prevention and Wellness Fund. That is not what we want. We do not 
want to keep our kids from getting vaccinations or hepatitis screening 
or diabetes prevention in order to keep the interest rates low. Let's 
close the tax loophole that has been talked about, that both Senator 
Reid from Nevada and Senator Reed from Rhode Island talked about. Close 
that tax loophole and send it to the President. He will sign it. That 
way we will keep the interest rates down at 3.4 percent and not allow 
them to double on July 1.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Who seeks recognition?
  Mr. REID. Has all time expired?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The minority has 35 seconds and the majority 
38 seconds.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Our case is so compelling, Mr. President. We yield 
back the rest of our time.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.
  Mr. REID. Time has been yielded back. We think there will be two more 
votes. I can't say there will be no more votes. We have a few more 
items to be worked out, such as flood insurance. I can't give everyone 
that assurance at this time.
  I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the amendment 
offered by the Senator from Kentucky.
  Mr. CONRAD. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There is a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Ms. SNOWE (when her name was called). Present.
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Connecticut (Mr. 
Blumenthal) is necessarily absent.
  Mr. KYL. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the Senator 
from Texas (Mrs. Hutchison) and the Senator from Illinois (Mr. Kirk).
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Coons). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 34, nays 62, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 112 Leg.]

                                YEAS--34

     Alexander
     Ayotte
     Barrasso
     Blunt
     Boozman
     Brown (MA)
     Chambliss
     Coats
     Cochran
     Collins
     Cornyn
     Crapo
     Enzi
     Graham
     Grassley
     Hatch
     Heller
     Hoeven
     Isakson
     Johanns
     Kyl
     Lugar
     McCain
     McConnell
     Murkowski
     Portman
     Risch
     Roberts
     Rubio
     Sessions
     Shelby
     Thune
     Vitter
     Wicker

                                NAYS--62

     Akaka
     Baucus
     Begich
     Bennet
     Bingaman
     Boxer

[[Page S3611]]


     Brown (OH)
     Burr
     Cantwell
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Coburn
     Conrad
     Coons
     Corker
     DeMint
     Durbin
     Feinstein
     Franken
     Gillibrand
     Hagan
     Harkin
     Inhofe
     Inouye
     Johnson (SD)
     Johnson (WI)
     Kerry
     Klobuchar
     Kohl
     Landrieu
     Lautenberg
     Leahy
     Lee
     Levin
     Lieberman
     Manchin
     McCaskill
     Menendez
     Merkley
     Mikulski
     Moran
     Murray
     Nelson (NE)
     Nelson (FL)
     Paul
     Pryor
     Reed
     Reid
     Rockefeller
     Sanders
     Schumer
     Shaheen
     Stabenow
     Tester
     Toomey
     Udall (CO)
     Udall (NM)
     Warner
     Webb
     Whitehouse
     Wyden

                        ANSWERED ``PRESENT''--1

       
     Snowe
       

                             NOT VOTING--3

     Blumenthal
     Hutchison
     Kirk
  The amendment was rejected.
  Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, while the Republican alternative was 
definitely better than the Democrat-endorsed proposal, at the end of 
the day, neither option presented a long term answer to the impending 
rise in student loan interest rates.
  In 2007, Congress passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, 
which I opposed. This legislation used a stepped reduction of interest 
rates for subsidized Stafford loans, from 6.8 percent to the current 
3.4 percent. Also as a part of this law, these rates are scheduled to 
reset to the original 6.8 percent on July 1. So for five years, we have 
known this day was coming. A one-year extension of the current interest 
rate is merely a six billion dollar temporary fix. It would simply 
postpone finding an actual solution to the problem of college 
affordability. Congress has gotten too comfortable with band aid fixes: 
payments to physicians, the Highway bill, and flood insurance being 
recent examples. It is because of increased government intervention 
that we continually find ourselves in this predicament. With every 
government takeover, whether it is education, health care, or the EPA, 
the result is less competition, less consumer choice, and less 
innovation.
  Mr. President, I understand the importance and value of a good 
education. My wife was a teacher, and my two daughters became teachers 
as well, one even at a university. I also commend the efforts of all 
students who strive to achieve a higher education and improve their 
lives, especially those struggling through financial burdens. However, 
we owe it to these students to address the problem, not just put a band 
aid on it.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader is recognized.

                          ____________________