Murkowski Reacts to House Health Care Strategy

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, issued the following statement today on the unveiling of the revised Democratic health care bill, the latest CBO estimate of the measure and the U.S. House of Representatives' strategy regarding passage of the legislation. The legislation also includes another major government takeover - this one aimed at the federal student loan program.

"The Senate-passed health care bill was bad enough, with its half trillion dollars in Medicare cuts and $494 billion in tax increases. But the legislation unveiled today would slash Medicare by an additional $60 billion, and hike taxes by at least another $150 billion. There's a reason why a majority of Americans opposed the earlier health care plan, and today's new legislation just makes a very bad bill much worse.

"It's also unfortunate that the House leadership has apparently decided to resort to sleight-of-hand tactics to entice enough of its own members to approve a health care package. House Democrats are moving forward with a plan to approve the Senate-passed health care bill without actually voting on it. The House reportedly plans to approve a measure that would "deem" the Senate bill passed while at the same time voting on a separate package of changes to the $2.5 trillion Senate health care bill. Earlier this week, President Obama said that Congress owes the American people a final up-or-down vote on health care reform, but House Democrats must not have gotten the message as they prepare to ‘deem' the Senate bill passed.

"I'm also disappointed that the majority party decided to add a major government takeover of the student loan program to the health care measure. Under this proposal, all students would be forced to borrow their federal student loans from the U.S. Department of Education. Currently, students can borrow through banks, state agencies, and non-profit lenders that participate in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program at the same rates as through the Department's Direct Loan program. The Administration's proposal would end the FFEL program, forcing all students to borrow from the federal government directly. The Department would borrow the money from the Treasury Department at about 2 percent interest and loan to American students at up to 6.8 percent interest. The federal government should not be in the business of making a profit from American students.

"In Alaska, the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, where more than 90 percent of Alaskans get their student loans, would no longer be able to assist students to attain federal financing for college, under the proposal. Instead, Alaskans would be forced to borrow from the government and then deal with for-profit businesses such as Sallie Mae that will service loans during repayment. Instead of being able to talk to their neighbors who work at the local bank, or drive to the local office of a state agency or non-profit lender, Alaskan students will have to dial an 800 number to one of four call centers in the Lower 48 and seek help from a faceless bureaucrat. As a parent who is dealing with my son's entry into college right now, I can tell you that the process is already complicated and frustrating. This legislation would just make matters worse."

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