Student aid vote delayed

By Christine Won

Congress was unable to pass the House budget reconciliation bill on Nov. 10, and the floor vote was postponed until later this week. The bill proposes to cut student loan programs and funding by $14.3 billion.

“It’s a temporary victory,” said Christine Lindstrom, State Public Interest Research Group’s Higher Education Project director. “If we keep the pressure on, Congress can go our way, but it won’t happen naturally.”

The reconciliation bill would mean the largest cut in student loan programs in the history of American higher education, said Luke Swarthout, associate of Higher Education Project in State Public Interest Research Groups.

“Budget reconciliation will make those loans more expensive and harder to repay at a time when millions of students already struggle to finance their education,” Swarthout said in a budget reconciliation board memo.

It appears Congress will try to do another floor vote later this week. The leadership is willing to adjust the reconciliation bill and meeting with Congressmen to address specific concerns and needs to muster up votes, said Phil Bloomer, press secretary for state Rep. Tim Johnson (R-15).

Congressman Johnson is concerned the bill will hurt farmers in his rural district and is also worried that changes to student loan funding will adversely affect the three public universities in his district, his spokesman said in a press release.

However, “despite those concerns, Congressman Johnson may still support the bill, making him and other like-minded members the focus of aggressive lobbying by leadership,” the press release said.

It’s still unclear how Johnson is going to vote until the final remnants of the proposal are known, Bloomer said.

“Congress should recognize the importance of an affordable higher education to the economic, civic and social health of our country,” Swarthout said in a statement. “We should increase our investment in affordable higher education. We should not look to student loan programs to finance new tax cuts. However, to help students and families out of their financial hole, Congress must permanently bury this reconciliation bill.”