Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding a Republican filibuster of legislation to keep student loan interest rates low, and on the Republican proposal to cut preventive health care. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Over the last two weeks, Senate Republicans have repeatedly claimed they support efforts to keep interest rates low for federal student loans.
There is only one way to prove it: end the needless filibuster of Democrats’ plan to stop rates from doubling this summer.
Democrats have proposed legislation to freeze student loan interest rates at current levels for a year without adding a penny to the deficit.
Our plan creates no new taxes. It would simply stop wealthy Americans from avoiding the taxes they already owe.
And our legislation would prevent 7 million students from paying $1,000 more over the life of each loan.
Yet Republicans appear poised to filibuster this worthy measure.
They’re sending a clear message they would rather protect wealthy tax dodgers than help promising students achieve their dreams of higher education.
Republicans will try to explain away their “no” votes by claiming they oppose the way the legislation is paid for.
They propose radical cuts to a preventive health care fund instead – a proposal they know Democrats oppose.
The prevention fund is already helping states fight chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.
Chronic diseases like these are responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths in American.
And they make up three-quarters of the nation’s health care spending.
For example, treating 26 million Americans with diabetes – including a rapidly growing number of children – costs hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
And diabetes increases the risk of developing other costly, life-threatening chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
The prevention fund also pays for successful tobacco cessation programs that avert billions in healthcare costs to treat emphysema, heart disease and cancer.
And it finances immunizations for preventable, childhood illnesses such as measles and whooping cough.
Last year, measles cases reached a 15-year high.
After being nearly wiped out in the 1950’s, whooping cough has also resurged.
During a recent outbreak of whooping cough in California, the disease reached its highest rates in more than half a century.
These diseases are completely preventable with the kind of proper immunizations the prevention fund supports.
Yet Republicans want to ax investments in preventive care that save the country money and save lives.
We have already made cuts – difficult cuts – to this program. We cannot afford to make more drastic cuts, which would put Americans’ health at risk.
But while we do not support Republicans’ plan to cut programs that combat diabetes, heart disease and cancer, we are happy to give them a vote on their alternative pay-for.
If Republicans stop filibustering our legislation, which would keep student loan interest rates low, we will vote on their proposal to pay for it.
The stakes of this debate are too high to let partisanship get in the way.
The average student graduates with $25,000 in debt.
Too many young people are putting off buying a house, starting a family or opening a business because they are saddled with crushing student loan debt.
Democrats are determined to protect millions of students from increasing interest rates.
If Republicans truly share our goal, they will vote to advance this legislation today.