Senate Democrats: Penalizing Poor Students

 ‘The Junior Senator From Vermont And His Allies Have Chosen To Make It Harder For Low-Income Students To Earn A College Degree’

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “The junior Senator from Vermont and his allies have chosen to make it harder for low-income students to earn a college degree. This is especially hypocritical coming from the man who claims to support free college for all. I’m at a loss for words. I don’t understand how they can claim to fight for students in one moment, and then make it harder for students to afford college the next. They chose to attack the tax bill by any means necessary – even though they knew the outcome – and in the process launched a direct attack on the ability of schools like Berea to provide tuition-free education to its students in need. This action by Senate Democrats is deeply disappointing and will produce real harm.” (Sen. McConnell, Floor Remarks, 12/21/17)

  • SEN. MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “Senate Democrats purposefully penalized schools that give scholarships to low-income students. And they chose to do it after the same provision had already passed the Senate before we went to conference. They didn’t have to raise this challenge – they chose to do so. And in the process they knowingly hurt schools that provide tuition-free education to students who can’t otherwise afford to go to college. One of these schools is Berea College, in my home state of Kentucky. … Senate Democrats identified this exemption as a bridge too far.  Instead of allowing the provision to stand, thereby protecting students at schools like Berea, they decided to pick partisan politics and attack the measure simply because they could.” (Sen. McConnell, Floor Remarks, 12/21/17)

Berea College ‘An Odd Target For Senator Bernie Sanders Of Vermont’

JONATHAN WEISMAN, The New York Times Deputy Washington Editor: “Congratulations @BernieSanders, you used a Byrd Rule challenge to make sure a luxury tax hits the endowment of Berea College, which offers free tuition to poor families sending their first children to college. http://bit.ly/2oXDk9t

“Berea College would seem to be an odd target for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a liberal hero and champion of the little guy. Celebrated as a model for how postsecondary institutions can help fulfill the American dream, the Kentucky liberal arts college admits only students whose families cannot pay for college — 98 percent use federal Pell grants, and 64 percent are first-generation college students. The median family income of a Berea family is $29,000. But a last-ditch effort by Mr. Sanders and Senate Democrats to embarrass Republicans — or at least delay final passage of the tax bill — rendered Berea collateral damage in the partisan wars in Washington. A provision in the tax bill, introduced by Kentucky’s senior senator, Mitch McConnell, would have exempted Berea from a 1.4 percent excise tax that will be imposed on the nation’s wealthiest colleges.” (“How A Tuition-Free College Turned Into A Casualty Of The Tax Wars,” The New York Times, 12/20/2017)

LYLE D. ROELOFS, Berea College President: “Berea College uses its entire endowment to educate students who could not otherwise afford to attend college, serving them on a no-tuition basis. We agree that there need to be incentives for schools to make higher education accessible to all students, but it seems so unfortunate that the political strife over tax reform in our country will result in greater difficulty for colleges seeking to serve low-income students.” (Greensboro News & Record’s ‘The Syllabus,’ 12/20/2017)

  • “Nestled in the foothills of Appalachia, Kentucky's Berea College, a private liberal arts school founded in 1869 by abolitionists, has a distinguished heritage as the first integrated and co-educational college in the South. It's also distinguished by its mission to provide a free college education to all its students. Aided by an endowment of $1 billion, Berea charges no tuition to its 1,600 students who work on campus. But now Berea has a new distinction: it appears to be one of a few, small private colleges inadvertently ensnared in the tax bill close to winning final approval from Congress.” (“Kentucky's Tiny Berea College Foundation Gets Ensnared In US Tax Bill Scheme,” Courier-Journal, 12/20/2017)

Democrats Removed Provision Protecting Berea College

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): “The Senator and I have been working to try to weed out of this legislation violations of what is called the Byrd rule, which, in English, basically means you can’t stuff provisions into a bill that really don’t deal with tax and spending. …Turning to the question now of this evening, it looks to me as though we have now found several other Byrd rule violations… So I would wrap up by asking my colleague from Vermont—and I want to tell him it has been a pleasure to work in partnership with him on this … these Byrd rule violations…” (Sen. Wyden, Congressional Record, S.8101, 12/19/2017)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (ID-VT): “In that regard, I would tell my friend that this afternoon, the Senate Parliamentarian advised that certain provisions of the Republican tax legislation violate the Byrd rule, including a provision allowing for the use of 529 savings accounts for home schooling expenses; the short title—the Tax Cut and Jobs Act—and part of the criteria used to determine whether the endowments of private universities are subject to the legislation’s new excise tax. These provisions may be struck from the conference report absent 60 votes. With that, I raise the following points of order against the pending conference report: That subsection 11000(a) violates section 313(b)(1)(A) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974; that subparagraph (B) of section 11032, starting on page 75, line 17 and all through page 76, line 9, violates section 313(b)(1)(D) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974; and that the phrase ‘tuition-paying’ as it appears on page 309, line 12, and page 309, lines 14 through 15, violates section 313(b)(1)(D) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.” (Sen. Sanders, Congressional Record, S.8101, 12/19/2017)


Related Issues: Tax Reform, Education, Middle Class, Senate Democrats, Taxes