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Jason Donofrio,
Arizona PIRG

Congress Chooses to Invest in America's Priorities, Votes to pass President's Budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Last night, Congress approved President Obama's transformational plan to overhaul the nation's health care system, make college more accessible, and eliminate wasteful subsidies and abusive tax shelters and loopholes. Similar resolutions passed in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that reflect President Obama's commitment to responsibly tackle critical public interest priorities.  A conference committee with members of both bodies will meet over the next few weeks to reconcile the differences in the bill. 

"President Obama presented Congress with a road-map for prioritizing the concerns of American families over those of Washington's entrenched special interests," said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG).  "Now that Congress has affirmed the President's vision, the conference committee must choose the clearest path to tangible reform for health care and student aide."

On health care, while both resolutions would create a "reserve fund" which will allow Congress to produce fiscally-responsible health care reform bills later this year to reign in sky-rocketing costs, reconciliation instructions included in the House proposal provide the clearest path to enacting necessary reforms.

"For too long, unrestrained growth in health care costs has fueled the profit margins of insurers, drug companies, and other special interests, while American families and small businesses suffered," said Larry McNeely, Arizona PIRG's national health care advocate. "In today's struggling economy, our country simply cannot afford another year of higher health care costs."

On higher education, consistent with the president's initial proposal, the Senate and House Budget resolutions both propose a significant reinvestment in the Pell grant, the nation's primary need-based student aid program, which could be achieved by cutting excessive subsidies from banks and lenders.

Rich Williams, Arizona PIRG's Higher Education Associate, stated, "Arizona PIRG applauds the Senate and House in joining the president to reset our higher education priorities. The House Budget Resolution significantly increases student aid, including a boost to the Pell Grant program, by cutting excessive subsidies to banks and lenders out of the student loan program. We are disappointed that the Senate Budget Resolution maintains some level of subsidy for banks and lenders rather than direct those funds to students.  We urge both chambers to prioritize a significant increase in student aid when forging their compromise and adopt the house reforms to the student loan program."

Finally, by assuming the enactment of loophole-closers and enforcement efforts to address offshore tax havens and shut down abusive tax shelters, the proposals also reflect the President's promise to improve corporate responsibility and ensure fairness in the tax code. "Not only does this budget make investments in America's key priorities, it ensures that those investments are paid for in part by taking on some of the most powerful special interests who have carved and twisted the tax code to avoid paying their fair share," said Brown.

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