House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.



Floor Statement

September 4, 2007

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
(202) 225-4527

McKeon Statement on Motion to Instruct Conferees on the "College Cost Reduction Act" (H.R. 2669)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for yielding. 

Let me begin by saying how I wish we had followed a more open and inclusive process up to this point.  My friends on the other side of the aisle pledged that the 110th Congress would be the most fair, open, and honest in history.  Yet, it is my understanding that the Democrats are close to finalizing an agreement on a conference report, before conferees have even been named, and with little input from House Republicans.  There’s nothing fair, open, or honest about that. 

The Senate Budget Committee Chairman predicted months ago that the budget reconciliation process was in danger of being abused as a “stalking horse” for new spending, and looking back, he could not have been more on-target.  The House bill, in fact, included one of the most significant increases in higher education entitlement spending we have ever witnessed – establishing nine new entitlement programs.  And bear in mind, most of that new spending isn’t even targeted toward low-income students – but rather at institutions, philanthropic organizations, and graduates.   

That is a remarkable change from the historical function of federal student aid programs.  For more than four decades, these programs have existed for a single purpose: to give our neediest students a chance at obtaining a college degree and pursuing the American Dream.  The House bill turns its back on that tradition. 

House Republicans support strengthening our nation’s student aid programs, but we do not support targeting scarce federal student aid resources at wealthy philanthropic organizations, universities with million or billion dollar endowments, and college graduates.  And we certainly do not support doing so at the expense of the market-based FFEL program, which has been a success by any measure. 

There is a way, Mr. Speaker, that we can avoid making this critical mistake.  Slightly reducing the cuts to lender subsidies and redirecting funding to provide additional support for Pell Grants rather than creating costly new entitlement programs are two steps that could be taken in an effort to achieve bipartisan support for this bill.  I believe the final step is to include language that would allow for a careful analysis of possible auction scenarios to determine if an auction is really in the best interest of students and taxpayers before requiring its implementation.  In fact, I have heard from many Members, including 14 Democrats, who expressed concern about the automatic implementation of an auction and encourage that we approach any auction proposal with caution.  If the conference report achieves these goals, I believe we can achieve strong bipartisan support for this bill.  Doing anything less could endanger our support and trigger a presidential veto threat, just as the House bill did in July.  So, as we prepare to formalize a conference report, I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to bear this in mind. 

Mr. Speaker, I believe another part of the Senate’s reconciliation bill also deserves the attention of this chamber and inclusion in our conference report – specifically, the provision that would block the importation of terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay into American communities.   

We are a nation at war, and Guantanamo provides the highest level of security to ensure our enemies do not endanger American lives.  Some Democrats have suggested that the site be closed and terrorists be sent into American communities such as Edwards Air Force Base in my district; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Quantico, Virginia; and others.   

But make no mistake: transferring terrorist detainees to these communities will create an opportunity for our enemies to escape, recruit, and disseminate their terrorist skills.  And it would make these domestic facilities prime targets for any attack that al-Qaeda is able to mount within our borders.  Congress simply should not allow this to occur, and I thank the Senate for including this important language in its reconciliation bill.   

I urge my colleagues to do the same by voting yes on this motion to instruct, and I yield back the balance of my time.