House Republicans Cite Pell Grant Spending as Reason to Delay House Vote
The House postponed its vote on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s debt reduction plan Thursday. House leadership was unable to garner the support it needed from many House freshman to pass the measure, and is expected to make changes to the bill before bringing it back for another vote.
The Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate have both produced two separate debt reduction plans. The House bill however, has been viewed by many freshman Republicans as not going far enough.
The Hill reports that many House Republicans were unhappy that the House bill included $17 billion in supplemental spending for Pell Grants, which some compare to welfare. Some said that the measure was not vetted with the input of House members.
“We were heartened to see both sides of the aisle acknowledge the importance of the Pell Grant program,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “To see some lawmakers clamor for cuts to the Pell Grant program to decrease our national debt demonstrates a shocking lack of economic sense about our long-term road to prosperity. We urge lawmakers to reject any proposals to balance the budget on the backs of low income students.”
Regarding Pell Grants and student aid funding, the House and Senate bills are remarkably similar. The two plans, though originating from competitors Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House Boehner (R-OH), both:
- Provide additional mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program for both FY 2012 and FY 2013
- Eliminate the graduate student Stafford Loan interest subsidy, and apply those savings toward the Pell program
- Make Negotiated Rulemaking inapplicable and provide Master Calendar exception
The Boehner plan, however, would eliminate Direct Loan Repayment Incentives beginning July 1, 2012 including interest rate reductions for electronic debit account repayment, and the up-front interest rebate. NASFAA has analyzed the bills and developed a side-by-side comparison of the two competing plans’ similarities and differences.
In the coming days, the House is also set to vote on two Balance Budget Constitutional Amendments (BBA), as required by Boehner’s measure to raise the debt ceiling. Though Boehner’s plan requires a vote on an amendment, it does not require its passage. While one BBA measure is more severe in terms of spending caps, the other is designed to gain more support from Democrats. HJ Res 1 has an 18 percent global cap on spending and requires a super majority to raise taxes, a point of contention for Senate Democrats who are pushing for tax increases to generate revenue. HJ Res 2, meanwhile, excludes any caps and requirements for a super majority, but does require cuts and policies that could adversely affect education funding.
At this point, both sides are vowing to block each others’ deficit reduction packages, making compromise before the Aug. 2 debt ceiling deadline difficult. If Congress cannot agree upon a package, many speculate that a short-term debt ceiling increase, similar to a short-term continuing resolution, will be passed.
President Obama has threatened to veto any short-term plan that Congress sends to his desk. On Monday night, in a public address, Obama warned of the dire consequences for the nation's economy if House Republicans do not come to an agreement.
We urge lawmakers to reject any proposals to balance the budget on the backs of low income students.