The House voted 273-149 today on legislation to halve interest rates on student loans and increase the maximum Pell grant from $4,310 per year to $5,200 per year by 2011. Pell grants go to poor students and don't have to be repaid. To pay for the proposal, lawmakers would cut roughly $19 billion in federal subsidies to banks that issue government-backed student loans. The interest rate on federally subsidized loans for low-income and middle-class students will go from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over five years. The House previously voted to approve that cut, but the Senate never considered it. But a similar bill to this one is pending in the Senate that puts more money into Pell grants. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy the chairman of the Senate education committee, has said he wants to move that legislation this month. A bill previously passed by the House seeks to end improper relations between colleges and their employees and student lenders. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate too.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman introduced a bill that would establish a mandatory cap on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, refineries and industrial plants but allow companies to trade emission credits and avoid making emissions cuts if the costs become too high. The bill would establish carbon emission limits throughout industry to assure that the releases do not grow significantly over the next two decades. Carbon emissions would have to be at 2006 levels in 2030, instead of growing at the rate of more than 1 percent a year as is projected without emissions caps. Many environmentalist argue that more stringent restrictions are needed to combat global warming. Bingaman said his bill has a goal of cutting carbon dioxide releases by 60 percent from 2006 levels by mid-century, but he acknowledged that would require a future president to increase emission controls, something that is allowed in the bill. It may not go far enough, but it'll be a good step in the right direction if it passes.
President Bush ordered former Counsel Harriet Miers to defy a congressional subpoena and refuse to testify about the firings of federal prosecutors, even as former White House political director Sara Taylor did so today (and answered few questions). House Democrats threatened to cite Miers if she refused to appear as subpoenaed for a Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday. The White House said she was immune from the subpoena and Bush had directed her not to appear, according to Miers' lawyer.