Student Loan Bill Designed to Hit GOP; Funded by Counter-Terrorism Budget
Over the last several weeks the Obama 2012 campaign has made a push into the college campus arena. A Harvard poll has shown that interest in the 2012 election among college students has dwindled in comparison to 2008.
During the last presidential election, then-candidate Barack Obama led Sen. John McCain by 34% among voters under 30, but finds himself only leading candidate Mitt Romney by 12 points among voters 18-24 and both falling behind candidate Ron Paul's reach in the age bracket.
The Obama campaign has strategized to hit 130 campuses during the campaign in order to rally soon-to-graduate students back into the ranks. Ironically, in 2007, then-Senator Obama missed two key votes on legislation signed by President George W. Bush which extended low interest rates through 2011 on student loans and provided a means for yearly renewal of increased funding to Pell Grants through 2017. However, now that President Obama needs student support in his re-election campaign, he seems to have taken more interest in the subject.
What better way to propagate the formula than to call attention to student loan debt and the increase of such debt due to expiring interest rates, highlighted to you on the campus of the University of North Carolina by the president? In fact, no sane member of Congress would chance losing precious student votes in the upcoming election for their party by voting against an extension to current student loan interest rates. That is, unless the bill, sponsored by Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI), was designed to fail and, by the way, didn't mention changes to interest rates on loans received prior to July of 2012.
However, it turns out that this was exactly the course of action destined for Clarke's H.R. 4170 Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012. The careful observer will find in the final paragraph of the bill the following:
Funds appropriated or otherwise made available for a fiscal year to carry out this Act and the amendments made by this Act shall be made available from the funds available for Overseas Contingency Operations.
Overseas Contingency Operations. Have we heard of this before? In fact, we have. In 2009, the Washington Post reported that the "Global War on Terrorism," a branding ordained by the Bush administration, had been given a softer, gentler sounding name.
In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department's office of security review noted that "this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' [GWOT.] Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.'
There are at least thirty-three of you for which that did make the situation abundantly clear. Analyzing any military filing or legislation since March of 2009, one will find that all operations revolving around counter-terrorism measures are referred to as "Overseas Contingency Operations." Counter-Terrorism is Overseas Contingency Operations. Overseas Contingency Operations is Counter-Terrorism.
Representative Hansen Clark's bill is designed to fail.
The Democrats know full well that no Republican is going to vote in favor of a bill that strips counter-terrorism funding in order to supplement Stafford loans to maintain lower interest rates on new student loans for another year. Further, what few may know is that the Obama administration's proposed budget only allots for a sustained interest rate until 2013 with an increase coming in the summer of next year.
Those hoping for a reduction in current interest rates will be sorely disappointed if they take the time to read the bill. While the bill's 10/10 Plan is retroactive -- allowing remaining debt to be forgiven if a loan holder has made the correct payments on his or her loans for 120 straight months (10 years) -- Section 4 indicates the reduction in interest rates will only be applicable to new loans acquired after the date the bill is codified, leaving those currently holding high interest rate student loan debt with their existing interest rate.
This bill does not solve the interest rate problem for existing loan holders and simply delays rising interest rates on new loans until 2013, at which point, if Obama retains the presidency, he no longer has to worry about capturing student votes.
The pure beauty of the bill, though, is that it is designed to acquire zero GOP support so that Republicans appear to not care about the needs of students, inevitably pushing student support and votes toward the Obama campaign in November. Classic Barry. It's like Oceans 11 but without all the mustaches, Pendergrast, or the fancy suits.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Hansen Clarke's office, was reached for comment but failed to respond before publication.