Speaking of members of Congress getting funding while voting against the Democratic agenda, witness Blanche Lincoln, today:
“Now that the Senate bill has passed both houses and the President will be signing it into law, the Senate will consider additional changes this week that were adopted by the House tonight as Budget Reconciliation,” Lincoln said in a statement released Sunday. “The Reconciliation package devised by the House includes matters unrelated to health care and employs a legislative process that wasn’t subject to the same transparency and thorough debate that we used in the Senate. I cannot support this process.”
“Matters unrelated to health care” specifically describes the student loan bill. The instructions for leaving the option of using reconciliation for that was passed in a deliberative process through the Senate, as part of last year’s budget. So this option has been available for some time.
Lincoln simply doesn’t like it. She’d rather reward banks and keep private subsidies flowing than offer that money to students. As a result, she would deprive the students of Arkansas $349 million dollars over ten years, helping as many as 58,000 college-age kids get a higher education. There’s also over $31 million dollars for Arkansas colleges and universities which Lincoln would like to leave on the table.
This won’t threaten passage of the reconciliation bill – Senate Democrats can lose up to nine votes – but it certainly clarifies Lincoln’s position on the big banks relative to students.
MoveOn blasted Lincoln for protecting bank subsidies last week, and the Lincoln campaign’s response was weak. As Adam Ruben says:
This is Senator Lincoln trying to have it both ways: acting as though she is supportive of student loan reform but actually opposing an up-or-down vote on the issue. She’s claiming she supports efforts to help Arkansas students while actually siding with the big banks that oppose reform and have funded her campaign so extensively.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill, including the student loan reform plan, as soon as next week. The proposed plan would eliminate $87 billion in subsidies to federal lenders, and use those savings to increase scholarships for America’s college students. The plan would help 58,000 Arkansas students next year alone. Blanche Lincoln has received $372,000 from commercial banks.
The question is: is Blanche Lincoln going continue to support a big bank bailout at the expense of Arkansas students?
(ed. note: It would actually eliminate $61 billion in subsidies now, per re-scoring by the CBO)
Bill Halter, on the other hand, supports SAFRA.
Today, I’m announcing my support for passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act by a simple up or down majority vote as part of the reconciliation bill being acted upon in Congress this weekend.
For too long, Washington hasn’t delivered the results that Arkansans deserve. Too often needed changes are stopped by procedural maneuvers. I want a simple American ideal to hold: majority rule. And if a simple up or down vote is good enough to elect a junior high school class president or a United States Senator, then it is good enough to pass meaningful reforms that help thousands of Arkansans [...]
It is time the will of the people overpowered the special interests grip on Washington. The time to act on the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act is now. Just this week we saw the power of providing scholarships to Arkansas students as applications to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville are up by 26%. It has worked here in Arkansas and it will work for the country.
Look for Lincoln’s expected vote on reconciliation to be a major story in the campaign.
UPDATE: Lincoln is apparently FUNDRAISING off of her opposition to student loan reform. FDL News has obtained the letter she sent to supporters right after the health care vote (on the flip):
Just now, the United States House of Representatives voted to approve the Senate Health Insurance reform bill that I helped craft and which I supported last year. I now look forward to the President signing this historic legislation into law.
Even with its imperfections, this bill represents the most morally and fiscally responsible approach to health reform. I have fought for health care reform to reduce costs for small business owners and the self-employed so they can reinvest the savings in their companies and hire more workers.
I am pleased that we will now force insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, preserve Medicare for future generations and reduce the deficit by more than one trillion dollars over the next 20 years. I now look forward to ensuring that Arkansans benefit the most from health insurance reform.
I expect the misinformation campaign about the new law to continue and I also expect many of the attacks will be targeted against me, starting with my position on additional changes contained in a procedure called Budget Reconciliation. I cannot support the Reconciliation package devised by the House which includes matters unrelated to health care and employs a legislative process that wasn’t subject to the same transparency and thorough debate that we used in the Senate.
We need to stand together in the weeks ahead and I want to take this moment to thank you for your comments and suggestions throughout this important debate.
With Arkansas Pride,
P.S. No one said that reforming health care would be easy. I fought for common sense health insurance reform that would be good for Arkansas. Now, I need you to stand with me today. Click here to contribute $5 or more to our campaign. Together, we’ll show the outside interest groups that we don’t need their advice.