TPMDC's roundup of the biggest initiatives on Capitol Hill.
- Health Care: The Senate HELP Committee passed its health care reform bill on a party line vote this morning. Now all eyes are on the Senate Finance Committee, which, according to Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), will mark up its bill next week. Then the bills can be merged and debated and, hopefully, voted on. Meanwhile, members of the House Education and Labor Committee offered opening statements in their first mark-up hearing of the House's health care reform draft bill.
- Nominations: Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings continued today. I'm told by reliable sources that she may have been asked to explain the "wise Latina woman" comment that's caused her so much grief, but I've been unable to confirm.
- Nominations: Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) has placed a hold on Robert Perciasepe, who's been nominated to serve as deputy EPA administrator. Voinovich doesn't seem to have any beef with Perciasepe per se--he just wishes the EPA would cough up a Waxman-Markey bill analysis to his liking.
- Studen Loan Reform: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller has introduced student loan reform legislation. President Obama is pleased: "I applaud Chairman Miller for introducing an education reform bill that will cut giveaways to special interests, invest in our children's future, and save taxpayer's money," he said. "Chairman Miller and I are working to end the wasteful subsidies that are given to banks and private lenders for student loans." You can read the whole statement below the fold. Interestingly, Congress' budget included reconciliation instructions on this issue, so if it meets too much resistance in the Senate, it may have a path around a filibuster.
I applaud Chairman Miller for introducing an education reform bill that will cut giveaways to special interests, invest in our children's future, and save taxpayer's money.
Chairman Miller and I are working to end the wasteful subsidies that are given to banks and private lenders for student loans. Instead, his legislation will make college more affordable by paying for annual increases in Pell Grants that keep pace with inflation. He's also working with us to simplify financial aid forms and increase graduation rates.
This legislation will also help us reach the goal I set out in Michigan this week to graduate five million more Americans from community colleges by 2020. These institutions can act as job training centers for the 21st century, and this legislation makes the largest investment in community colleges in fifty years, challenging them to increase completion rates, strengthen ties with businesses, modernize facilities, and offer new online learning opportunities. Chairman Miller's legislation will also invest in high-quality early education that can save taxpayers several dollars for every one we spend. It includes $10 billion for early learning challenge grants that will ask states to ensure that the number of children who start school ready to learn is growing each year.
Finally, I am proud that this legislation not only pays for itself, but also saves taxpayers money and reduces the deficit. I look forward to working with the Chairman and Congress to make this bill even stronger and pass it before the end of the year.