This vote was on an amendment that would have exempted loan programs for veterans and students from new accounting methods that would increase the programs’ estimated costs.
Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) offered the amendment to Republican-sponsored legislation that would change the way costs are estimated for federal credit programs. The Republican bill would require Congress to use “fair value” estimates. Compared to the method the government currently uses, “fair value” estimates assume credit programs impose a greater cost on taxpayers.
Rep. Walz said that while the goal of the Republican bill was “noble,” nonpartisan accounting experts are still debating the merits of “fair value” estimates. Until the effect of these new accounting methods are clearer, Congress should “make sure there's a firewall between those that can least afford to have this go bad,” Rep. Walz said.
“We've heard concerns today that enactment of this bill could result in us systematically overestimating the cost of federal loan programs. This will not just be inaccurate accounting; it could cause significant harm to millions of Americans who depend on these loans,” Rep. Walz said. “(My amendment) simply ensures that until we know how this policy is going to work out, we won't insist that we make it any harder for an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran to get a home loan. At the same time, when economic hardships and rising tuition costs are making it harder for our best and brightest, those very students that we depend on to make this nation profitable, we need to make sure that they're not harmed by this process.”
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) argued that the amendment would “undercut” the Republican bill. While Rep. Walz was concerned with fairness to students and veterans, he said, Republicans were advocating their bill because of their concern about fairness to all Americans.
“We know that the budget process in this country is broken. We know that there is no fairness in that. This amendment will undercut the legislation before us, and the underlying bill will try to restore it,” Rep. Garrett said. “Let me just say this: As we here in Washington travel through that great twilight which is that murky area of obscure accounting rules, let us commit ourselves to one thing – that we will bring clarity, that we will bring transparency, that we will bring sunshine, and, most importantly, that we will bring fairness to the American public as to the spending of their tax dollars.”
Rep. Walz offered his amendment as a “motion to recommit.” A motion to recommit is the minority’s opportunity to torpedo or significantly change a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. If passed, House leaders would have been forced to add Rep. Walz’s amendment before allowing a vote on final passage of the bill.
Rep. Walz’s motion was defeated by a vote of 190-238. Voting “yea” were 189 Democrats and 1 Republican. Voting “nay” were 238 Republicans. As a result, the House declined to exempt programs for students and veterans from new accounting methods that would increase estimated costs of federal credit programs.