GRIDLOCK UPDATE : Kline Still Sitting on Military and Veterans Education Protection Act

Today Minnesota’s native son, Norm Ornstein, along with Thomas E. Mann penned a Must-Read OpEd entitled :

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

Too bad, the OpEd was penned in the Washington Post … and the House is on another week break … another week where our highly-paid Representatives run around their districts talking to their supporters … leaving legislation just sit.

Last week before the House went into overdrive to rush through a face-saving ONE YEAR extension of Stafford Loan rates ….

This was not emergency legislation reacting to an Act of War or natural disaster … the House had legislation that was introduced in January – HR 3826 and had 153 co-sponsors … but it was assigned to Chairman John Kline’s (R-MN-02) Education and Workforce Committee … where the powerful Chairman just ignored it.

But when President Obama started pressing Congress to act … and wanna-be CEO-in-Chief Mitt Romney stated that now was not a good time for an increase, Chairman Kline acted … using this as an opportunity to eliminate the The Prevention and Public Health Fund.

That prompted a reaction from Chairman Kline’s challenger in November, Mike Obermueller :

Obermueller: “We need to cut wasteful spending, but making college more expensive will only cost us jobs

EAGAN, MN—Congressman Kline stole the national spotlight by arguing the position to raise student loan rates that’s even more extreme than his own party’s Presidential nominee. Congressman Kline even called low-interest federal student loans “bad policy” and “a ticking time bomb.”

How can Congressman Kline claim that investing in our children’s future is bad policy? This is exactly what happens when politicians spend too much time in Washington—they lose all common-sense,” said Obermueller, who is running against Kline in the 2nd Congressional District. “Congressman Kline will give tax breaks to billionaires and oil companies, but he won’t help make college affordable for Minnesota students and their families. Student loans are one way we can make sure that America is continuing to innovate and when we stop investing in innovation, we start falling behind. We’ve got to balance our budget, but we can’t do it on the backs of students.”
Obermueller continued, “Washington has clouded Congressman Kline’s priorities, and it’s time Minnesotans have a voice in Congress who will stand up for the middle class, and fight for a strong future for our children. Education is so critical to our country’s long-term economic growth. It’s an investment that’s critical to creating new jobs. Congressman Kline’s vote is short-sighted, and one that will hurt our local economy.”

So that got me wondering what other bi-partisan legislation is Chairman Kline holding up … so this week’s update to illustrate Congressional GRIDLOCK is H.R.4055 – Military and Veterans Education Protection Act.

A little background courtesy of Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA-12)

The bill, the Military and Veterans Education Protection Act (MVEP), H.R. 4055, will hold for-profit schools accountable for their treatment of all taxpayer funded benefits, including tuition payments from veterans and members of the military using Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds and Department of Defense (DOD) tuition assistance.

In the last academic school year, for-profit schools collected $1.5 billion in Post-9/11 G.I. bill tuition payments equaling nearly 1/3 of total disbursements made by the Department of Veterans Affairs, a federally funded agency. Yet, a loophole in the 90/10 funding formula meant to ensure for-profit schools derive at least 10% of their tuition funds from private sources, allowed the for-profit institutions to consider all $1.5 billion as privately funded. H.R. 4055 closes the 90/10 loophole.

We’ve got to ask the question – when these for-profits are taking taxpayer funds and attributing 22% to marketing, 37% to profit, and they have an abysmal 60-70% drop out rate – is this a good deal for taxpayers? Is this a good deal for students? This bill holds for-profits accountable and puts all taxpayer funded loans and benefits into the 90% side of the formula where they ought to be,” said Speier.

HR 4055 has Minnesotans Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum as cosponsors while the Senate version (S 2116) is sponsored by Minnesota’s Al Franken.

Senator Franken commented :

“One of the greatest things we can offer veterans in return for their service is the opportunity to get an education,” said Sen. Franken. “We know there are both good and bad actors when it comes to for-profit education. It’s our job to protect our veterans from the unscrupulous actions of some for-profit colleges and ensure that at the end of the day they’re getting the quality education that they deserve.”

Chairman Kline has a different view … from Bloomberg’s reporting :

For-profit colleges and John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who chairs the House education committee, have said such aid restrictions would reduce educational access for veterans who have been neglected by traditional schools.

Eight for-profit college companies received about $626 million in veterans’ education benefits in the most recent academic year, the Senate education committee said in a November report. They include the University of Phoenix, the largest chain by enrollment, and Education Management Corp., the second- biggest.

Congress, the Education Department, Justice Department and state attorneys general are scrutinizing the sales practices and student-loan default rates of for-profit colleges, which received almost $32 billion in federal grants and loans in the 2009-2010 school year.

Between 150,000 and 200,000 veterans are pursuing higher education at for-profit colleges, according to Steve Gunderson, president of the Washington-based Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, which represents the industry.

Hmmm … isn’t it good to see how Bloomberg lists the power on this issue … For-profit colleges are first, then their agent, the powerful Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, John Kline … and at the end, it’s the taxpayers and the veterans/students.

Mike Obermueller has defined the incumbent as “Washington has clouded Congressman Kline’s priorities” well, those priorities donate (just check this list featuring the For-Profit Education Industry) and if you wish to see Chairman Kline on display then watch tonight’s Daily Show were Chairman Kline is prominently featured.

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