Student Loan Legislation May Be Attached to Healthcare Reform

Adding student loan bill to healthcare reform legislation could hand President Obama two major domestic victories.  Senate Democrats may tack an overhaul of the student loan program onto the healthcare reform bill, potentially handing President Barack Obama with a double victory on two of his top domestic priorities.  According to Senator Dick Durbin, Majority Whip (D-IL), “There was a stronger feeling for including” the education proposal, although he admitted that a final decision has not yet been made.  The proposal would shift subsidies that currently support private lenders to other student assistance programs, including Pell Grants for families who struggle to pay college tuition.  “Some of the things accomplished here are really going to help a lot of people across American” Durbin said.

The leadership in both the House of Representatives and the Senate seemed to be on the verge of attaching the student loan bill to a package of fixes to the healthcare legislation.  House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA), who is a proponent of combining the two measures, said “Senators have a simple choice here.  They can either choose to continue sending tens of billions of wasteful subsidies to lenders, or they can invest that money directly in students and families.  It’s critical.  People have made it very clear that they want to take this home.”

The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate healthcare bill will cost $875 billion over 10 years and cut the deficit by $118 billion.  President Obama’s proposal, which contains negotiated provisions from the House bill, could add an additional $100 billion to the ultimate cost.  The Senate’s parliamentarian has ruled that combining the bills will work, assuming legislators reach the right balance on the final price tag.

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