The top four Senate Democrats offered newly elected Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., well wishes Tuesday, before calling for more action.
Last week, Congress passed a two-year budget and raised the debt limit. Now, Democrats are asking Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for more in a letter that invokes former Speaker John A. Boehner’s favorite phrase in his last days on the Hill.
“As you are aware, Speaker Boehner attempted to ‘clean the barn’ for his successor by securing passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which avoided a near default on our nation’s debts, and extending the nation’s highway program for another month. However, we believe the barn is far from cleaned,” wrote Democratic Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois; Charles E. Schumer of New York and Patty Murray of Washington.
The senators have specific priorities in mind: the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Export-Import Bank, the Perkins Loan Program and a highway bill.
“Your party’s continued unwillingness to reauthorize these initiatives will hurt both the economy and middle class Americans,” the senators wrote. “These extremely popular bipartisan programs help low-income students pay for college, small businesses export more goods and protect national parks and wildlife.”
The entire letter is here:
“Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell:
“First and foremost to Mr. Ryan, congratulations on your election to Speaker of the House of Representatives. We look forward to working with you and Leader McConnell.
“As you are aware, Speaker Boehner attempted to “clean the barn” for his successor by securing passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which avoided a near default on our nation’s debts, and extending the nation’s highway program for another month. However, we believe the barn is far from cleaned. Critical programs with significant bipartisan support that impact millions of Americans in all 50 states remain expired, for the first time in their existence, due to Republican inaction. Your party’s continued unwillingness to reauthorize these initiatives will hurt both the economy and middle class Americans. These extremely popular bipartisan programs help low-income students pay for college, small businesses export more goods and protect national parks and wildlife.
“Specifically, Republican inaction to reauthorize led to the expiration of the following bipartisan initiatives and yielded fiscal uncertainty for millions of low-income students attending college, as well as job loss and stalled construction and restoration projects throughout the country:
“Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): For 50 years, the LWCF has been our nation’s most important conservation program, reinvesting money from federal oil and gas development into preservation of our national parks, wildlife refuges, historic sites and other public recreation areas. The LWCF has helped reduce costs for managing public lands and generated $51 billion in economic activity and 880,000 jobs in 2012. As a self-sustaining program, the LWCF does not cost taxpayers a dime.
“The Export-Import Bank: The Export-Import Bank is a key tool that facilitates international trading with American small businesses. The Ex-Im Bank is a proven job creator, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Bank will save taxpayers nearly $2.3 billion over the next five years. Since the Bank’s charter expired on July 1, it is estimated that nearly $12 billion in potential export dollars have been lost. Companies have already announced that American jobs will have to be moved out of the country.
“Perkins Loan Program: The Perkins Loan Program provides low-interest loans to students who cannot borrow or afford more expensive private student loans. Specifically, the program aids more than half a million students across 1,500 institutions of higher education each year by offering students a set 5 percent interest rate. Furthermore, it has been reported that if the program is not reauthorized, colleges may have to return money for the program back to the federal government.
“Long-Term Highway Bill With Robust Funding: Additionally, following the recently passed 35th short-term highway bill extension, it is clearer now more than ever that it is well past time for Congress to enact a long-term highway bill with robust funding that meets our nation’s transportation infrastructure needs.
“We urge you to work with Congressional Democrats to clean out the rest of the barn and ensure the immediate reauthorization of these vital programs.”