Last Week In Congress

By: Carolyn Appel

The House of Representatives:

  • The House passed H.R. 1911, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, by a vote of 392 to 31. The bill pegs interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note.  Interest rates are fixed for the life of the loan but rates will vary for borrowers each year.  However, rates are capped at 8.25% for undergraduates, 9.5% for graduate, and 10.5% for PLUS loans.  The Senate had previously passed the bill and it now goes to the President’s desk where the President is expected to sign it.  In practical terms, this means that next year’s interest rates for undergraduates will be 3.9%, for graduate students interest rates will be 5.4%, and for PLUS loans the interest rate will be 6.4%.
  • The House abruptly pulled the vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations bill.  The $44.1 billion spending bill funds highways, housing for low-income families, subsidies for Amtrak, and other community development programs.  The House bill funds these programs at the levels set by sequestration, and the prevailing theory as to why the bill was pulled from the floor is that there were not enough votes in the Republican caucus to pass such an austere measure.
  • The House passed tough new sanctions on Iran.

The Senate:

  • The Senate confirmed all five of President Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as part of the deal struck to allow Senators to fillibuster executive branch nominees.  This is the first time in a decade that the NLRB has had a full board.
  • The Senate voted down their version of the T-HUD bill.  The appropriations bill, S. 1243, did not pass by a vote of 54 to 43, with one Republican – Senator Collins joining all Democrats in voting for the legislation.

Up Next…

  • Both the House and the Senate are out of session for the August recess and will be back September 9.  When Congress comes back, look for big budget fights to dominate the debate as the federal fiscal year ends October 1 and not one of the twelve appropriations bills has made it through both the House and Senate.  If a measure is not passed before the deadline to fund the federal government, there will be a shutdown.  Also look for possible progress on immigration reform, tax reform, and a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

On another note, your Last Week In Congress editor will not be returning from the August recess.  I am packing my bags and transferring over to GW Law.  It has been a pleasure working with all of you and I wish everyone the best with the rest of their law school and legal career!

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