House and Senate leaders have agreed to cut funding for the nation’s largest source of grants for college students to pay student loan contractors, according to legislation that would fund the federal government through next year and avert a shutdown.

Money appropriated for the Pell grant program this year would fall $303 million, or 1.3 percent, to $22.5 billion, according to a proposal first introduced over the summer by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Most of those funds would instead be used to pay private contractors that collect borrowers’ monthly student loan payments. Harkin has defended the move as necessary.

The provision, which faced a flurry of criticism after it was revealed in a Huffington Post article published Saturday, was expected. Lawmakers are likely to pass the more than $1 trillion spending bill in the coming days. The government’s spending authority expires Thursday.

The Pell program has a budget surplus that is forecast to turn into a deficit in two years. Cuts to the program would likely lead college students to increase the amount they borrow, further driving up the nation’s $1.3 trillion stack of unpaid student loan bills.

Meant for low-income students, three of every four Pell recipients during the 2012-13 award year had household incomes of $30,000 or less, according to the Department of Education. Nearly 8.9 million students are forecast to receive on average $3,826 from the program this fiscal year, White House budget documents show.

The Department of Education’s student loan servicers – companies that counsel borrowers, set them up with repayment plans and collect their monthly checks – are set to reap the rewards from lawmakers’ cuts to Pell. They’ll get up to $721.7 million, an $8 million cut from last year, but a nearly $44 million increase compared with 2013.


this is so painful to read

I always get a kick out of people who wear shirts and ties and sit behind desks all their lives telling hard working Americans: Yeah, you don’t have to retire at 65 you can go to 70.

How about the woman who stands on her feet behind a counter for 40 years? Try that sometime. How about that guy out there stringing those lines out there in the middle of the winter time and stuff like that? And how about the construction person that’s out there on the job?

There are a lot of people that work in packing houses all day long. Think about doing that for 40 years. Now they want them to work even longer? You know, look, not everyone has cushy jobs. Not everyone sits behind a desk with air conditioning and stuff.

—  Tom Harkin (D-IA) shares his thoughts on Republicans who want to raise the retirement age

Seth Rogen on Dementia at 55

On Wednesday, Seth Rogen gave impassioned testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee. The comedian and his wife Lauren Miller recently started a charity dedicated to Alzheimer’s education and research advocacy, Hilarity for Charity. Video of the ever-unassuming Rogen’s plea to support Alzheimer’s research resonated widely across the Internet, already having been viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube.

It’s not just that Rogen is a funny guy and that Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans, but also that a third of people fear dementia more than they do death. At odds with the massive public response to Rogen’s message, of the 18 members of the subcommittee, only two—Senators Tom Harkin and Jerry Moran—attended the hearing. “Not sure why only two senators were at the hearing,” Rogen tweeted. “Very symbolic of how the Government views Alzheimer’s. Seems to be a low priority.”

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Democratic Senator Tom Harkin (Iowa): “we need some of you probably getting arrested for doing things you shouldn’t be doing.”


“I do not agree with calling secular people ‘nonbelievers’. I have lots of friends who hold on to secular view points and they are passionate believers; Passionate believers in the first amendment. They believe in justice. They believe in living moral and ethical lives. They believe in tolerance and nondiscrimination. So please, don’t refer to yourselves as ‘nonbelievers.” – Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) at the Secular Coalition for America’s recent  Secular Summit & Lobby Day.

A student loan bubble?

By Carlos Gonzalez

September 30, 2011. Rep. George Miller and Sen. Tom Harkin distrust profit-making enterprises and, together with ObamaCare, the student lending business was the other industry that suffer a substantial overhaul.

Private lenders used to originate student loans, but in 2010 the Obama Administration enacted law that required all such loans to come directly from the feds. With default rates rapidly increasing, the Wall Street Journal believes that the worst is yet to come.


Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin taught delegates at the Democratic National Convention the sign for America in sign language as a nod to the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I do not have extremely strong political views & often don’t share them here but it’s cool that ASL got an honorable mention this weekend :) Always nice to see people take interest in the language that has become an integral part of my life, no matter what political views they have. We have progressed so much in the past 26 years!

Schlepping from here to New York to L.A. to Chicago to New Orleans to Miami to, my God, I don’t know where. Ten thousand here, 20,000 there, 15,000 there. Boy. I don’t miss that.
—  Retiring U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), explaining that the constant chase for campaign cash is one reason Congress is so dysfunctional. (Los Angeles Times)
Hillary Clinton returns to Iowa, and Bill Clinton almost steals the show

Bill Clinton tried to be the political spouse.

When he and Hillary Clinton arrived on stage here Sunday afternoon before a sun-drenched crowd of what organizers said was 10,000 people, he hung back, and let Hillary stand next to Sen. Tom Harkin, the retiring Democrat who was holding his 37th and final annual steak fry.

Hillary and Harkin hugged and waved to the crowd, then hugged and waved some more, as applause washed over them.

The 68-year old former president—so accustomed to being the center of attention during his career—went over and stood arm-in-arm with Ruth Harkin, the senator’s wife. It was Hillary’s day. It was her first trip to Iowa since her unsuccessful 2008 presidential primary bid, and the first major political event for her ahead of the 2016 presidential election, in which she is certain to be the presumptive Democratic nominee if she runs.

But Bill Clinton is still the dominant personality, the superior politician, and the more famous figure of the pair. A few moments after ascending the stage, Bill was surrounded by the four other politicians on stage—all men—while Hillary and Ruth Harkin stood quietly off to the side. Bruce Braley, the Iowa congressman running for Harkin’s seat, pointed out his mother to Bill, who waved and said hello.