Political Animal


July 29, 2011 10:05 AM The Pell Grants sticking point

By Steve Benen

Congressional Republicans who oppose Speaker Boehner’s budget plan have more than one complaint, but it’s fascinating to see one of the main sticking points GOP leaders ran into last night.

House conservatives who have stalled legislation to raise the national debt limit are angry that it includes $17 billion in supplemental spending for Pell Grants, which some compare to welfare. Legislation crafted by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to raise the debt limit by $900 billion would directly appropriate $9 billion for Pell Grants in 2012 and another $8 billion in 2013. This has shocked some conservative House freshmen who say they were elected to cut spending, not increase it. Some House Republicans think of it as being akin to welfare.

This isn’t a joke. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) said of the Pell Grant provision, “I really don’t understand why we’re increasing spending in a bill supposed to be cutting spending.” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) conceded the Pell Grants have “been part of the discussion” among conservatives who were debating whether they could support the bill.

About a month ago, during a different debate, John Cole noted, “If these guys were comic book villains, no one would buy it because it’s just too over the top.”

It’s an assessment with broad applicability.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • kevo on July 29, 2011 10:08 AM:

    The horror! Middle and Working class youth with college degrees! Oh, the horror!

    These Teahadists are truly a bane to our nation, and the crazy won't get better until American voters do better at the polls! -Kevo

  • bignose on July 29, 2011 10:08 AM:

    Just say no to education. Stupidity is the law of the land.

  • EdgewaterJoe on July 29, 2011 10:16 AM:

    For the love of God -- CALL PELOSI and set up a CLEAN ceiling hike! There HAVE to be a couple dozen Republican moderates who would get coverage from Wall Street banksters to fight off the Koch Brothers for saving their bacon ... can't there?

  • gus on July 29, 2011 10:16 AM:

    Cole compared them to supervillains, too? I thought it was just that Florida governor who was getting that treatment.

    To try to knock the legs out from under Pell grants is about as anti-intellectual and anti-business as it gets for that lot. The money is going to individual students, yes. But, they are spending it on their institution, whether it is public or private. So, they aren't doing anyone or anything much good.

    Though, I do recall one congressman from Colorado who owned a string of beauty salon schools who did quite well for himself due to Pell Grant money. He was a Republican crook, too. But, he knew how the money benefitted schools more than students. Because those trade schools are diploma mills.

    I doubt Tea Party House Members, mostly millionaires, actually understand the various aspects of anything related to what goes on with lower and middle class people who want to improve their lives, especially since they can't get jobs in this crappy recession. They only see it as Big Government spending money on people. Amazing.

  • Bartender on July 29, 2011 10:17 AM:

    The Pell Grant opponents are simply jealous since it's obvious they had no post secondary education.

  • Trollop on July 29, 2011 10:17 AM:

    Yeah, I was going to channel bignose. UFBelievable! "Conservative" sure has changed since we were growing up! Didn't education and hard work go along with hating them coloreds?

  • Ron Byers on July 29, 2011 10:20 AM:

    Pell Grants, really. Little people with jealous little minds. How did these clowns get nominated. Their vision of an American future is closer to Mexico than the US of their youth.

    This isn't tea party crap, this is rich white folk class warfare.

  • jcricket on July 29, 2011 10:21 AM:

    Republicans have never cared about education assistance -unless they could make a profit on it acting as middlemen.

    The trust fund crowd have theirs in the bag, and the rubes think it is a badge of honor to be ignorant.

  • bigtuna on July 29, 2011 10:27 AM:

    With apologies to Pink Floyd ..

    When we grew up and went to school, there were certain teachers who would hurt the children anyway they could
    by pouring their derision upon anything we did
    exposing every weakness however carefully hidden by the kids.

    But in the town it was well known that when they got home at night
    their fat and psychopathic wives
    Would thrash them within inches of their lives!

    We don't need no education
    We don’t need no thought control
    No dark sarcasm in the classroom
    Teachers leave them kids alone
    Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!
    All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
    All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

  • T2 on July 29, 2011 10:28 AM:

    a stupid electorate ensures GOP votes.

  • delNorte on July 29, 2011 10:30 AM:

    Perusing this morning's posts and comments, there seems to be a common thread: frustrated exasperation...

    I think most of us here are past fed up at all this fiddling while folks in "real America" - which, I'm beginning to believe, exists not in, but outside of the Republican imagination - are hurting. And it's not the faux hurt of an indignant Tea Partier - this is the hurt of people who are having a hard time putting food on the table.

    For Christ's sake, America is much better than this hell hole into which it seems we've descended.

  • rusty chainsaw on July 29, 2011 10:34 AM:


  • Varecia on July 29, 2011 10:39 AM:

    Ron Byers: "...This isn't tea party crap, this is rich white folk class warfare."

    Absolutely! If you're not rich, it's your fault and you're suspect. The basic belief is that people who don't have means are parasitic, and will rip off taxpayers at every opportunity.

  • DAY on July 29, 2011 10:40 AM:

    This is the result of high school drop-outs electing folks with a GED.

    In the land of the blind, the one eyed is king. . .

  • ComradeAnon on July 29, 2011 10:42 AM:

    One of the comments on The Hill's article was classic. After a few paragraphs of Fox talking points they wrote, "The bill's due and you need to pay it now."

    They've won this. No matter what happens, there will be at least a trillion in cuts, no additional revenue and a new opportunity for the republicans to hold all future debt ceiling increases hostage for whatever they want. Unles the President invokes Section 4, Amendment 14. And that ain't gonna happen.

    Oh for a Democrat in the White House.

  • June on July 29, 2011 11:06 AM:

    Pell Grants are "welfare," but government subsidies to oil companies are not.

    Republicans are a sick lot.

  • JayinOregon on July 29, 2011 11:34 AM:

    Stupid is as stupid does. Run Forrest, run from these horrible, misguided, insane teabagging useless white trash ... )(*&$%^&*((*&^%$%^&*()

    Nancy Pelosi... introduce a clean debt ceiling bill now. PLEASE!!!!

    Go to Boehner who knows it's over for him. Get all the Dem votes and whip up as many corporate shill Repubs... and push this through.

  • Schtick on July 29, 2011 11:41 AM:

    People that graduate from high school are a smarter lot than our elected genius elites. Tear out the basic education and just for a little insurance, rip out any higher education assistance. If they don't have daddies to buy their sheepskin, tough luck.

    crapcha....attending diontra....the next queen?

  • SYSPROG on July 29, 2011 11:51 AM:

    The thing that KILLS me about this Pell Grant thing is how hypocritical these entitled little dweebs are! Don't they REALIZE (OK that's rhetoric) how THEY got thru school??? Education was subsidized at the public universities up to 85%!!! That's right. You DIDN'T DO IT ALL YOURSELVES by selling your notes from class or working at the University Pub. You tuition was kept low because we had a country that VALUED education. You are stupid moronic and petty. You don't KNOW what welfare is and you don't know how much YOU sucked off the teat of government...but BY GOD you are willing to screw everyone else with your blatant stupidity.

  • Common Knowledge on July 29, 2011 11:54 AM:

    Leaving aside the stupidity of this whole exercise by Boehner, why does the Republican bill contain increases to Pell Grants? It seems like a completely random provision that could be addressed separately. Is there some pending Pell Grant crisis we don’t know about, and if so why does the Republican leadership care? Does anyone know of some inside Washington reason for this?

  • Common Knowledge on July 29, 2011 12:20 PM:

    OK. Obviously I didn't click on the link.

    “House Republican leaders say they included concessions to Democrats in efforts to forge a compromise that could pass both chambers.”

    What is the point of a pretense of bipartisanship if no-one knows it exists? Is Boehner really so delusional that he thinks this bill has any chance at all in the Senate?

  • Crissa on July 29, 2011 2:52 PM:

    Pell Grants have been a sticking point recently and one way to get Democrats to vote for it, because getting these generally radically improves people's lives.

  • exlibra on July 29, 2011 4:52 PM:

    Like Crissa says (@2:52), Pell Grants were never all that popular with the Republican elites, because they give a leg up to the hoi-polloi. But it's only recently -- since the private middlemen were eliminated from the process, saving more money for the actual *grants* -- that the Repubs conceived its rabid hatred for them. What happened to Pell Grants (one more little thing that the President did for us, and for which few people are likely to thank him) was also what the original healthcare reform was supposed to achieve (public option). Alas, that one was so big, nobody could have snuck it in under the radar and the Repubs (with able help of LIEBerman) scuttled it.

    "density lutedisi". Yup, sounds dense to me, too. Though not *all* people are saying such stupid things.

  • Texas Aggie on July 29, 2011 9:41 PM:

    The concept of "eating your seed corn" is all about a short term, immediate benefit that brings about future destruction. Cutting, rather than raising, Pell Grants is a good example of what normal people would consider stupid quadrupled.

    In order to see what happens with this scenario, you only need to look at examples where it has been tried. In Monterry, Mexico, there is a private, internationally well-regarded university known as The Instituto Tecnologico, Tec for short. It is very expensive and only the very rich can afford to attend, but about 20 - 25 years ago, they found that their students weren't doing well (understatement) academically. To alleviate the situation, they started a program of scholarships for academically bright middle and lower class students, and began recruitment efforts in the junior highs and high schools, not just the private schools. Now, less than three decades later, they have reestablished their reputation for academic excellence and are graduating well educated students who are capable of contributing to society rather than a bunch of lunkheads who can only get by on daddy's money.