by Max Brantley
Bill Halter has scheduled a news conference this morning to talk about the coming votes on health legislation.
If he doesn't sharply differentiate himself from Sen. Blanche Lincoln this morning he never will. If he does not support the legislation and the reconciliation process for adopting it, what -- after all -- is the point of his candidacy?
ALSO: NY Times reports that House Democrats are dickering over who can safely vote for the legislation and which endangered members can be let off the hook. Again: Will Rep. Marion Berry be a critical vote to defeat historic legislation over abortion language that doesn't do what he only fears, but isn't sure, it will do? A lameduck will deny tens of thousands of Delta working poor a better health safety net? Rep. Mike Ross, though unbeatable in his district, is too selfish to do the right thing. He's a useless tool.
UPDATE: I misread Halter's announcement. He said he would talk about congressional action this weekend. Silly me. I thought that meant he'd talk health care. He merely said he favored the student loan legislation, which Lincoln has opposed because it deprives her banking supporters of some guaranteed fees. Still, apart from saying he welcomed a debate, Halter didn't say much. He did respond to a question by saying he still supported the health bill, though imperfect, and that he would support the reconciliation process to pass it.
Today, I’m announcing my support for passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act by a simple up or down majority vote as part of the reconciliation bill being acted upon in Congress this weekend.
For too long, Washington hasn’t delivered the results that Arkansans deserve. Too often needed changes are stopped by procedural maneuvers. I want a simple American ideal to hold: majority rule. And if a simple up or down vote is good enough to elect a junior high school class president or a United States Senator, then it is good enough to pass meaningful reforms that help thousands of Arkansans.
To create the jobs and economic development we want, we must eliminate hurdles to higher education, not work to protect the profits of out-of-state banks and financial institutions. In Arkansas, we did that by taking the scholarship lottery to the people – and by passing it with a simple up or down vote. Now, this year there will be over 28,000 families better able to afford a higher education - and we did it without raising taxes.
Still for too many, financial concerns are keeping them from seeking a college degree or vocational training.
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.
And this bill will protect American jobs by requiring loans be serviced by U.S. workers.
Others supporting this legislation include The College Board, The American Association of University Women, Community Colleges, Colleges and Universities from across the country as well as dozens of parent and student organizations.
But unfortunately big banks that fund Sen. Lincoln’s campaign, their lobbyists and Sen. Lincoln herself oppose the legislation.
It is time the will of the people overpowered the special interests grip on Washington. The time to act on the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act is now. Just this week we saw the power of providing scholarships to Arkansas students as applications to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville are up by 26%. It has worked here in Arkansas and it will work for the country.