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Obama hails student loan measure as victory over special interests

By Anne E. Kornblut
Beginning to pivot from health care back to other domestic priorities, President Obama heralded in his weekly address Saturday the passage of sweeping changes to the way higher education is financed, saying they would "help us educate all Americans to compete and win in the 21st century."

Obama will sign the education reforms into law on Tuesday, in a ceremony at Northern Virginia Community College's Alexandria campus, the White House said. The measure includes additional funding for Pell grants and is designed to make it easier for students to pay off education loans. It also includes fixes to the new health-care law that were crafted in a compromise between House and Senate Democrats.

After months of tumultuous debate over health care, Obama is now heading out into the country to build support for the new law, including a stop this Thursday in Maine. But he is also beginning to change the subject. After focusing on education in Virginia Tuesday, Obama travels Friday to North Carolina to talk about the economy.

Privately, Democratic strategists said the shift is a welcome one, putting Obama on the path to a broader discussion extending beyond health care as the midterm elections pick up steam. "He has got to be talking about jobs when he goes out into the states," one Democratic official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely about the president's strategy.

In his weekly address, Obama described the past week in terms of dual pillars of achievement.

"Education. Health care. Two of the most important pillars of a strong America grew stronger this week," he said.

And he dwelt on the latter.

"Year after year, we've seen billions of taxpayer dollars handed out as subsidies to the bankers and middlemen who handle federal student loans, when that money should have gone to advancing the dreams of our students and working families. And yet attempts to fix this problem and reform this program were thwarted by special interests that fought tooth and nail to preserve their exclusive giveaway," Obama said.

"But this time, we said, would be different. We said we'd stand up to the special interests, and stand up for the interests of students and families. That's what happened this week. And I commend all the senators and representatives who did the right thing," he said.

The changes will include capping students' annual loan payments at 10 percent of their salaries and dramatically increasing the funding for Pell grants.

"These achievements don't represent the end of our challenges; nor do they signify the end of the work that faces our country," Obama said. "But what they do represent is real and major reform. What they show is that we're a nation still capable of doing big things. What they prove is what's possible when we can come together to overcome the politics of the moment; push back on the special interests; and look beyond the next election to do what's right for the next generation."

Republicans continued to attack the health care overhaul as a mistake. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, delivering the Republican response, called the health care struggle "one of the most divisive legislative debates in modern history" and argued that the Democrats' glee at their accomplishments are not shared by the public at large.

"Most people aren't interested in celebrating a bill that makes their lives more complicated, takes more out of their paychecks and puts decisions they're used to making themselves into the hands of federal bureaucrats," McConnell said.

Trumpeting the Republican mantra to "repeal and replace" the health care bill, he said his party would soon formulate an alternative -- "without all the nasty consequences we're already beginning to see."

By Anne E. Kornblut  |  March 27, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Education  
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Comments

Obama used student loan take over to pay for Health care. If Obama really care about Education of our needy students, he should give student loan at the Fed's lending rate to students not hiked up by 4% and siphon it to pay for Health care. Students should get the student loan at the rate Govt was giving it to the Banks. Now instead of the Bank, the Govt is making the money. "You can not hide a pumpkin in your rice"

Posted by: aalamaram | March 31, 2010 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Next up, President Obama announces that the federal government will raise dairy cows itself instead of "paying subsidies to farmers and middlemen to do it." We have heard the phrase "the Federal government has taken over...." many times in the past year and a half. And we'll be hearing it more and more. There is nothing so complicated, or so private, or so big that the federal government doesn't want to micromanage it. If we let them.

Posted by: sam38 | March 29, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks mtpeaks for bringing some facts into the debate.

Posted by: sally62 | March 27, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

wesatch wrote>>>The special interests got everything they wanted and now have a law that requires us to by healthcare from them.

You're wrong. ObamaCare gives us "free market" competitive health care insurance for the first time.
Why do Republicans HATE lower insurance premiums??

Posted by: angie12106 | March 27, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

How typical of this president to claim "victory" over the same special interest groups that got him elected.

What a crock.

Posted by: jimbob3 | March 27, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

So much of the reform debate has been government-centric, in terms of costs, benefits, and so on. As a consequence, much of it was veiled in the fog of politics.
Now that reform has been enacted, there is clarity coming from the financial markets. For they are experts at analyzing the bottom line.
The first thing we saw early this week was the bond houses forecasting that the true cost of reform will be well over one trillion dollars in the first ten years.
This assumed addition to the national debt resulted in the next reaction at mid-week: for the first time in recent memory, the government had difficulty attracting buyers of it long-term bonds to finance the national debt. The resulting increase in bond rates will make the future funding of our national debt even more expensive.
Next, as a result of regulations requiring companies to report material changes in their financial holdings, we began to hear of the immediate impact of reform on their bottom line.
The handful of companies that have reported thus far are projecting a financial loss of over $1.5 billion in just this quarter alone. They plan to meet this unexpected loss by cutting jobs and reducing retiree benefits.
So just in the first five days since enactment, we are seeing significant damage being done to our fragile economy.
Whether or not this emerging toll on our financial sector will be enough to tip us into an even greater economic crisis remains to be seen.
But it's already evident that the reform enacted poses a foolish risk based on a reckless bet.

Posted by: mtpeaks | March 27, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

The new health care law here in the U.S. is expected to have big benefits for India. The Christian Science Monitor reports the addition of 32 million Americans to insurance rolls here in the States is very significant for Indian outsourcers.

A number of Indian companies are already anticipating an increase in workload. Ananda Mukerji, CEO for Firstsource Solutions, says the extra work will include processing new enrollments, organizing bigger member databases, processing more claims, providing more support services and managing more revenue.

Posted by: Micholina1 | March 27, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

What a joke. The special interests got everything they wanted and now have a law that requires us to by healthcare from them.

What next, we have to buy from microsoft, or comcast, or JP Morgan Chase?

What a crock. A monopolistic dream come true. In 5 years there will only be 4 insurers left after the small ones are gobbled up. It already happened on a state by state level.
Just like interstate banking ruined competition for depositors money, just like "deregulation" hosed electric consumers.

The bigger these companies are the more untouchable they become and the more fraud they commit.

Posted by: wesatch | March 27, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

We got the health care overhaul.
We got the student loan overhaul.
Now jobs.

Posted by: glenglish | March 27, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

You can get full Medical Insurance coverage at the lowest price from http://bit.ly/aCQJaD

Posted by: afjekelcy27 | March 27, 2010 6:19 AM | Report abuse

Do you need a job? New Obama Health Care Plan is going to insure additional 33 Million people. There is going to be huge demand for Medical Assistants, Medical Billing, Medical Coding, Pharmacy Assistant & Pharmacy Technician across the nation (estimated at least a million). We can help you get a training during weekends and evenings and get a degree in few months. Please note this is not a nursing degree and it is not that difficult. With the degree finding a job will be easy, contact for free information at http://bit.ly/9eV3nr this is your chance

Posted by: ZoniaLaretta | March 27, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

Do you need a job? New Obama Health Care Plan is going to insure additional 33 Million people. There is going to be huge demand for Medical Assistants, Medical Billing, Medical Coding, Pharmacy Assistant & Pharmacy Technician across the nation (estimated at least a million). We can help you get a training during weekends and evenings and get a degree in few months. Please note this is not a nursing degree and it is not that difficult. With the degree finding a job will be easy, contact for free information at http://bit.ly/9eV3nr this is your chance

Posted by: ZoniaLaretta | March 27, 2010 6:12 AM | Report abuse

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