Student Loans

Opinion: 2018 Could Be Oddly Productive
Who says Congress can’t get things done during an election year?

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, shown here in 2013, are throwing their weight behind legislation to promote evidence-based policymaking. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As we enter 2018, the pundit class is already pushing the usual refrain that nothing important gets done in an election year. It is always safe to be cynical in uncertain times, and low expectations have an undeniable appeal. But history does not support the premise that legislative achievements occur only in odd years. Moreover, I challenge anyone to say that 2018 won’t be odd.

The theory of election year incapacitation harks back to a time when lawmaking had a strategic cadence. Members of Congress would focus on policy for 18 months and then shift their concern to re-election. Now, our democracy exists in a constant election cycle. New members of Congress hold fundraisers before taking the oath of office, and the tyranny of our digital society ensures that every vote, utterance and facial expression becomes campaign fodder. While this perpetual election has many grim implications, it also has served to diminish the distinction between “on” and “off” years.

Senate Tax Positions Prevail in Conference, House GOP Doesn’t Care
Concerns muted amid political imperative to achieve a legislative victory

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, left, and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, led negotiations on the GOP tax overhaul conference committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The tax overhaul conference report looks a lot like the Senate bill. Senate negotiators prevailed on most of the major issues — and House Republicans say they’re fine with that.

House Republicans interviewed for this story said they will support the final product despite it being very different from the one they voted on in November, with reasons ranging from specific provisions they championed to the overall benefits of the sweeping package.

Landmark GOP Tax Bill Poised for Final Passage
Measure may pass through both chambers before Christmas

Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, and Ways and Means chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, have steered a tax bill that would be the the first major tax overhaul in 30 years. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans late Friday unveiled their final plan to overhaul the tax code, a sweeping measure that aims to lower taxes on businesses and individuals, open up parts of Alaska to oil drilling and roll back a key piece of the 2010 health care law.

The massive measure is likely to pass both chambers early next week. Momentum for the landmark package grew throughout the day Friday, capped off with a surprise announcement from Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that he would back the final bill after opposing a previous version.

Senate GOP to Delay Corporate Tax Cut, Repeal ‘SALT’ Deduction
Finance Committee releases plan highlights

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven at a news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 5:25 p.m. | Senate Republicans proposed Thursday to delay a corporate tax cut for one year and fully repeal the deduction for state and local taxes, taking a different approach than the House on overhauling the tax code.

The plan highlights released by the Senate Finance Committee show shared goals with the House bill advanced by the Ways and Committee on Thursday. Both would provide tax cuts at all income levels, slash the corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, and expand benefits for families with children. For multinational companies, the proposals would shift to a new territorial tax regime.

McConnell Seeks Exception to Rules for School
Kentucky Republican wants to keep federal funding for home-state college

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s amendment would provide flexibility on default rates to schools in economically depressed regions. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is asking the Education Department to skirt its rules and make an exception to provide federal dollars to a college in his home state — even though a high percentage of its graduates defaulted on their students loans for the last three years.

McConnell’s move is part of a larger debate about the criteria to determine whether a college should receive federal funding or be cut off. Currently, the Education Department uses data on what is known as the cohort default rate — or how many of a college’s graduates default on their loans — to decide whether the school is a good investment for taxpayer money.

Student Loan Program About to Expire
Legislation to extend it blocked

Sen. Lamar Alexander blocked legislation to extend a college student loan program with bipartisan support. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A college student loan program with bipartisan support will expire Saturday after key Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander blocked legislation to extend it.

The need-based program will lapse midnight Saturday, depriving tens of thousands of college students of a source of financial aid that is a mix of federal dollars and college contributions.

Gill Seeks to Run Against Davis in Sixth Bid for House
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try try, try, try again

Dr. David Gill narrowly lost to Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., in the second-closest congressional race in 2012. (David Gill Congress)

Dr. David Gill, who has run unsuccessfully for Congress five times announced Tuesday that he’ll make a sixth try against Rep. Rodney Davis.

Gill, an emergency medicine physician, is seeking the Democratic nomination in Illinois’ 13th District against Republican Rep. Rodney Davis.

The Quieter Assault Against Obamacare
Democrats fault GOP tactic for problems

Some supporters of former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law blame a Republican tactic as partly responsible for many of the failures in the law that the GOP says it must fix. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)

The Republican drive to deliver a death blow to President Barack Obama’s health care law has overshadowed a quieter assault using annual government funding bills that’s gone on for years. 

It’s not as glamorous or high-decibel as the news conferences and floor debates surrounding the repeal of the law, but it certainly has proved controversial. What’s more, the law’s supporters see this GOP tactic as partly responsible for many of the failures in the law that Republicans now say they must fix.

Staffer Guide: Making the Most of Capitol Hill
Insight on money and perks

One Hill perk that can't be quantified is access to and direct interaction with lawmakers. An aide is seen here consulting with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., during a hearing on Jan. 24. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Hill is a great place to work, whether you’re just starting your career or have been staff for a while. Here are some tips on how to take advantage of your time on the Hill.

On Capitol Hill, you might not get paid as much as you might like. Aside from taking advantage of the benefits you have, here are some tips for saving money:

Opinion: Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap
Do policies meant to address big problems aggravate an economic divide?

The incoming Trump administration and lawmakers should anticipate whether new policies will improve or aggravate wealth inequities, Shapiro and Asante-Muhammad write. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

We have a proposition for the incoming Trump administration and the new Congress and it’s not a liberal or a conservative idea. It’s just a call for pragmatism when developing new federal policies over the next four years.

For too long, even when coming together to enact laws to accomplish noble goals, Congress and previous presidents have ignored the unintended effects of “one-size-fits-all” legislation on the racial wealth divide in this country. What seems like a great idea — making college more affordable, for example — can actually feed the divide.