During the signing ceremony for the health care bill, President Obama said that he expected the Senate to pass the final tweaks within a matter of days, prompting applause from the assembled members of Congress. According to Sam Stein, one of the members who stood up and applauded this was Blanche Lincoln. She’s announced her opposition to the reconciliation bill to which Obama was referring.
Bill Halter has seized on Lincoln’s opposition, particularly to the piece of it that would reform the student loan industry:
Last week Lieutenant Governor Halter held a news conference to indicate his support for student loan reform that is also included in the reconciliation bill. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act will take subsidized profits for big banks out of the process and provide over $67 billion of additional financial resources for students over the next ten years. This legislation will have direct benefits for Arkansas students and students across the country and will help hundreds of thousands of students afford college while ending needless subsidies to the big banks. Additionally the bill will protect American jobs by requiring loans be serviced by U.S. workers.
“I hope Senator Lincoln will change her mind again and join me in supporting this important legislation. The delay and bickering in Washington must stop. The time is now to pass health care and student loan reforms without delay,” concluded Halter.
There’s a very good reason Lincoln will oppose student loan reform, and it’s not because of the ludicrous claim that it would “eliminate every bank in the country.” Simply put, protecting billions in lender and bank subsidies at the expense of students is good for business.
Two weeks ago, a group of six Democratic Senators — Mark Warner, Blanche Lincoln, Tom Carper, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, and Jim Webb — wrote a letter to Senate majority leader Harry Reid raising concerns about the legislation [...]
As part of the (lobbying) campaign, the industry developed a sophisticated political strategy that targeted potential sympathizers in the Senate, including the six Senators who signed the letter to Reid. The industry showered them with campaign contributions and made a number of key lobbying hires in order to open lines of communication with their offices.
Sallie Mae’s PAC maxed out to Senator Blanche Lincoln’s primary account in 2009, and Nelnet, another lender, gave $4000 to Ben Nelson in 2009 alone, on top of another $15,000 it has given him over the course of his career. Two of Tom Carper’s top three career contributors are JP Morgan and Citigroup, both major lenders, and Sallie Mae’s PAC has given him $13,500 over the past ten years.
The report also identifies six of these Senators’ former staffers who are now lobbyists for the student loan industry. The lobbyists have used their relationships with their old bosses to ensure that the Senate looks out for the student loan industry’s agenda, even if it comes at the expense of millions of students. Carper, Warner, Lincoln, and Ben Nelson all have former staffers lobbying for the student loan industry.
Blanche Lincoln’s former Chief of Staff, Kelly Bingel, was hired as a lobbyist for the student loan industry as part of a group called the “Student Loan Coalition.” Previously, she lobbied on behalf of health insurance and pharmaceutical interests – with that over, the move to student loans was natural.
The full report on the lobbying and fundraising interests around Lincoln can be found here. I’m sure Halter’s campaign will be reading.
UPDATE: James Carville, apparently an ardent lover of bank subsidies, sends out a fundraising email on behalf of Lincoln.