A Note from Lucy Flores

Flores4Congress-logoThis past weekend, as thousands of UNLV students celebrated their graduation, I reflected on how important education was in creating opportunities for me. I also remembered that overcoming the odds and becoming the first person in my family to attend college would not have been possible without financial aid to make tuition more affordable.

That’s why I’m disappointed that Crescent Hardy recently voted to make it harder for students to pay for college.

Higher education is essential to achieving the American Dream, but it’s increasingly harder to afford. And now Rep. Hardy helped Speaker Boehner and the GOP Congress pass a budget that freezes Pell Grants for a decade, meaning the class of 2025 would have to find a way to pay for an extra 10 percent of their tuition.

We need to ensure the next generation of Nevada students has the same opportunity to complete their education and reach for their dreams.

Join me in calling on Republicans in Congress to make college more affordable? Sign the petition today.

FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES: Stealing America’s Future

David Halperin, Stealing America’s Future, joins Thom Hartmann to discuss what’s happening with for-profit colleges. As the cost of a higher education goes up – more and more Americans are turning to for-profit colleges to get what they think is more bang for their buck. But are for-profit colleges really just a big scam fueled by a never-ending supply of student loan debt?

This Week in Congress

Congress returns from recess, and will deal with the student loan interest rate this week, along with a spending bill for federal energy and water programs.

In the Senate —

The Senate adjourned in late June without passing a bill dealing with student loans, but is hoping to make progress this week. Two bills will be considered:

  • The Keep Student Loans Affordable Act (S 1238): would lower the 6.8% interest rate on subsidized student loans back down to 3.4% for another year.
  • – The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act (S 1241): would set the rate at that of the 10-year Treasury note plus 1.85 percent. –

The Scoop: Neither of these bills has yet to be summarized on THOMAS.  The bipartisan bill is purported to be much closer to a version passed by the House in June. Passing it in the Senate would likely set up a House-Senate conference that could work to reach an agreement on a final bill. Passage of the one-year extension, however, could delay progress on the issue further, as House Republicans have indicated they are not likely to advance a simple extension.

In the House — 

In the House, members will deal with a major spending bill for 2014:

– The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act(HR 2609):  This bill spends about $30 billion on energy and water programs in the federal government, and is nearly $3 billion below the spending level for 2013.

The House will also consider:

  • The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (HR 761): aimed at boosting the production of strategic “rare earth” elements. (Summary on Thomas)
  • The FOR VETS Act (HR 1171): donating federal property to veterans’ organizations. The “Formerly Owned Resources for Veterans to Express Thanks for Service Act of 2013” or the “FOR VETS Act of 2013” if passed, would authorize the transfer of federal surplus property to a state agency for distribution, through donation, within the state, for purposes of education or public health for organizations whose membership comprises substantially veterans, and whose representatives are recognized by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims under laws administered by the Secretary.
  • The Financial Competitive Act (HR 1341): requiring a study of differences in derivative markets in the U.S. and overseas.   I call this one the “Pass the Buck” law, in that it would
    • Direct the Financial Stability Oversight Council to study and report to Congress on the likely effects that differences between the United States and other jurisdictions in implementing the derivatives credit valuation adjustment capital requirement would have on: (1) U.S. financial institutions that conduct derivatives transactions and participate in derivatives markets, (2) end users of derivatives, and (3) international derivatives markets.
    • Require the study to recommend steps Congress and the constituent agencies of the Council should take to: (1) minimize any expected negative effects on U.S. financial institutions, derivatives markets, and end users; and (2) encourage greater international consistency in implementation of internationally agreed capital, liquidity, and other prudential standards.
  • The Audit Integrity and Job Protection (HR 1564): easing regulations that require public companies to rotate their external auditors. This bill would:
    • Authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service (NPS), to make improvements to a support facility, including a visitor center, for a National Historic Site administered by the NPS if such project: (1) is conducted within the agency’s existing budget, (2) is subject to a 50% non-federal cost sharing requirement, and (3) is conducted for a unit of the NPS which has the authority to establish a support facility outside the park’s boundary.
    • Allows the NPS to operate and use all or part of a support facility, including a visitor center, for such a Site: (1) to carry out the duties associated with the administration and support of such Site, and (2) only in situations where there is an agreement between the Secretary and the commissioners of the county or parish in which the facility is located.

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Words of Wisdom from Robert Reich

A basic economic principle is government ought to tax what we want to discourage, not what we want to encourage. For example, if we want less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we should tax carbon polluters. On the other hand, if we want more students from lower-income families to be able to afford college, we shouldn’t put a tax on student loans.

Unfortunately, congressional Republicans are intent on doing exactly the opposite. The Republican-led House has passed a bill pegging student-loan interest rates to the yield on the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percentage points. Republicans estimate this will bring in around $3.7 billion of extra revenue to help pay down the federal debt. In other words, it’s a tax on students from lower-income families. Meanwhile, most GOP House members and Senators have signed a pledge – sponsored by the multi-billionaire Koch brothers (whose companies are among America’s 20 worst polluters) — to oppose any climate-change legislation that might raise government revenues by taxing polluters.

Go figure.

Robert Reich is an American politician, academic, writer, and political commentator. He served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, from 1993 to 1997, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the ten most successful cabinet secretaries of the last century. In 2008 he served on President-elect Barack Obama’s economic advisory board.

Discharge Petition on the Student Loan Relief Act

On June 13, 2013, Rep. Joe Courtney [D-CT-2] filed a discharge petition in the House that would force a vote on the Student Loan Relief Act of 2013 (HR 1595). The Student Loan Relief Act would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans.

In the House, if a majority of Members (218 or more) sign on to “discharge” a bill from committee, it will be brought to the House Floor for a vote without a report from a Committee — without cooperation of the leadership. (Learn more.)

This is only the second discharge petition to be filed in this Congress. It is viewable on the House Clerk’s website.

Weigh in on this issue at popvox, where you can send a note to your House representative asking him/her to sign onto the discharge petition for HR1595:  https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/x126