Sunday, January 28, 2007

Jeff Fortenberry Takes Offense (& the Offensive)

by Kyle Michaelis
On Friday, Nebraska's First District Republican Congressman, Jeff Fortenberry, responded to a Daily Nebraskan editorial a week earlier challenging his controversial vote against a Democratic-led proposal to cut student loan interest rates in half over the next 5 years. Fortenberry wrote:
A recent editorial examined my vote on a student loan issue before the United States Congress. Instead of focusing on the serious policy questions of this vote, the editorial board of the Daily Nebraskan chose to question my political motives and launch offensive insinuations.

The U.S. government is involved in helping students in a number of ways. It provides grants and direct loans and guarantees loans made by the private sector. Many of these programs have empowered more persons to access higher education than ever before.

However, I remain concerned that college tuition rates have greatly outstripped inflation, and there is reasonable apprehension that government programs, particularly borrowing, are correlated to these tuition increases. Nonetheless, in the last Congress I voted to increase borrowing limits for new students, decrease fees paid by students when obtaining a student loan and increase grant aid for low-income students. We also significantly increased fees on private sector loan providers in order to fund these new benefits for students.

This year, I carefully reviewed the proposal to increase the taxpayer subsidy, which may, in effect, encourage further indebtedness and fuel tuition increases. Instead of supporting legislation to temporarily reduce interest rates - providing benefits for graduates exclusively - I backed a measure that would have provided lower interest rates to low and middle-income college graduates and those serving in the Armed Forces. I'm disappointed you did not report on this important vote.

Another overlooked point by the editorial board is the fact that my office spends considerable time and resources working with the University of Nebraska to enhance projects and educational opportunities.

I would hope that more objective standards be applied in the future.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry
Oddly, Fortenberry failed to mention his vote to cut federal aid to college students by $12 billion last summer. It's also more than a little bit ridiculous that he would use as a defense his vote to "increase borrowing limits for new students," as if more debt at higher interest rates was to anyone's benefit but loan providers' (and big-time Republican contributors) like Nelnet.

One wonders if he will be similarly defensive and arrogant in his response to UNLs student goverment after declaring their formal disapproval of both his and Rep. Adrian Smith's votes against the College Student Relief Act.

Fortenberry claims he wants objectivity, but what this really reads like is a call for the Daily Nebraskan's silence and complicity as he votes against the interests of students, parents, and the state of Nebraska.

He expects the same kids' gloves treatment he received from the media in his first term, but it's a new year, a new Congress, and new rules apply. Though we're not there yet, as a New Nebraska takes shape, Fortenberry had better change his expectations or expect to pay the price.

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Blogger Knightn said...

Smith I can see sliding out of this one, but Fortenberry's vote is a true slap in the face. Forts district is home to the state's flagship university for crying out loud. Students are the state's livelihood but they have to move out of Nebraska to make enough money to pay their loans off. But according to Fort, a lower interest rate wouldn't help students?! The Republican/Fortenberry line on this issue fails the logic test.


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