Heller votes

U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, a Republican representing the Northern Nevada district, crossed party lines to vote for a Democratic student loan bill in the House Education and Labor Committee.

The purpose of the June 13 meeting was to decide how to use funds realized from cutting public subsidies to private student lenders.

Democrats proposed a plan under which Pell Grant scholarships would increase by $500 over the next five years, and interest rates on need-based student loans would be cut in half, from 6.8 to 3.4 percent in equal steps over the same five years. Once fully phased-in, Democrats said this would save the typical student borrower—with $13,800 in need-based student loan debt—$4,400 over the life of the loan. About 6.8 million students take out need-based loans each year.

Republicans argued that Democrats were “short changing” students and proposed that the Pell funds be doubled instead of raised by only $500.

Republican Rep. Howard McKeon said the need is to get assistance to students, not to post-grads.

Heller and two other Republicans—Rep. Thomas Petri of Wisconsin and Delegate Luis G. Fortuño of Puerto Rico—voted to approve the Democratic measure, which passed on a 30 to 16 vote.

Democrats were less pleased by another Heller vote. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—which raises money for Democratic House candidates—put out a press release calling Heller soft on illegal aliens.

“Rep. Heller talks tough on border security, but his vote to cut more than 170 border agents tells the real story,” said the statement from DCCC publicist Jennifer Crider. “Rep. Heller’s irresponsible decision to slash 171 urgently needed border agents and resources puts Americans at risk with porous borders that make it easier for terrorists to enter our country.”

This was a reference to a Heller vote for a 5.7 percent cut in border and customs funding.