Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Daily Strike-3/30/10-Reconciliation Achieved

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I could get used to these bill signing days!

RECONCILIATION: Today, President Obama, surrounded by lawmakers and students, signed the Health and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act. The bill makes a series of changes to the recently enacted Affordable Care Act, and also includes a separate unrelated measure that overhauls federal student loans.

Since last week, the President got a signing ceremony in which he dealt exclusively with his health care achievement, today's event was focused on student loans. The signing took place at a Northern Virginia Community College where Second Lady Jill Biden is a professor. Mrs. Biden introduced the President.

The student loan reform bill is a great progressive accomplishment on its own. The bill ends government subsidies to financial institutions that make student loans. It was incredibly inefficient for the government to subsidize private lenders, since private companies rack up quite a bit of overheard. Instead, the government will now be the originator of all student loans. This will save the government about $68 billion. With this savings, the government will invest in higher education in a number of ways. The funding for Pell Grants will be doubled. Student loan payments will be capped at 10% of a graduate's discretionary income, with any remaining balance forgiven after 20 years. Those who enter public service will have their loans forgiven after 10 years. The bill also makes historic investment in historically black colleges, and sets aside $2 billion for community colleges, which will enable 5 million more students to earn certificates or degrees over the next decade. I'm slightly disappointed that negotiatiors stripped down the funding from $10 billion to $2 billion for community colleges, but they needed to use that money to pay for part of the health care legislation. Mother Strike is particularly concerned about this issue, and I'm sure she would like to see the Obama administration commit more money in the next budget.

Nevertheless, the President has taken another huge step in helping out the struggling families of this country. He even talked again today about how this reform contributes to his idea of a "new foundation" for the economy. He had abandoned this rhetoric last year, to our great disappointment. Hopefully we can continue to build this foundation over the next few months by enacted financial reform and energy legislation.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President spent the second part of the day with French President Nicholas Sarkozy. The two Presidents announced that new sanctions against Iran will be adopted "in weeks." Iran has so far rejected any attempts at reaching some sort of deal to curtail their nuclear ambitions. It's pretty clear at this point that strong UN sanctions might be the only way to put on some pressure. Any UN resolution will need the approval of France, which has a permanent seat on the Security Council.

On a separate note, Sarkozy had a vintage DC lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street. Awesome.

That's pretty much it for today. See you tomorrow!

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