Rep. John Kline led his colleagues in a rallying cry Tuesday against what Republicans have deemed the other "government takeover" embedded in the health care bill. (Hint: It has nothing to do with health care.)
At a press conference in the Capitol, Kline criticized a plan to eliminate the federal subsidy of private student lenders in favor of direct government lending. Democrats are planning to include the provision, which already passed the House as a standalone bill, in the so-called "fixes" to the health care legislation.
Why? Partly because it will offset other costs in the bill, including an expansion of the Pell Grant program, since the government would profit on the loans. On top of that, the standalone bill had little hopes of passing the Senate.
"So we have a convergence if you will of government takeovers and public options," said Kline, who is leading the Republican charge against the provision because he is the ranking Republican on the Education and Labor committee. "And in my mind two really bad bills."
Republicans argue that nixing the federal subsidy propping up private lenders amounts to a "government takeover" of student lending since it will lead to massive cuts in the private lending industry. Democrats contend, however, that it's already a federal program and they are just cutting out the middle man.
President Bush won support from Democrats when he made cuts to the subsidies in 2007.
"When you go from having 30,000 jobs in the private sector -- $70 billion of private capital -- to slashing those 30,000 jobs, making government jobs or a smaller number of contracted private jobs, it looks and sounds a lot to me like a government takeover," Kline said.
The student lending debate adds yet another complicating facet to this week's health care debate, reducing the overall cost of the bill but threatening the support of some Democrats who oppose the provision.
“It seems sort of strange that we’re here to talk about student loans and health care in the same sentence," Kline said. "It doesn’t seem like they would match up.”
Kline also expressed frustration with the latest legislative tactic being proposed to pass the health care bill, the so-called Slaughter Solution. It would involve the House voting on the fixes to the Senate bill without voting on the bill itself, deeming it to have already passed.
Describing the Slaughter Solution to reporters, Kline stopped mid-sentence and remarked, seemingly to himself, "It's incredible to even think about it."