Why one of the most widely supported bill in Congress hasn’t seen its day on the floor
© Getty Images

Would you be surprised to know that there is a bill before Congress with 245 co-sponsors, making it one of the top 20 most supported bills of the 115th Congress which has yet to be voted on? And that this bill would actually make a meaningful difference in the lives of 500,000 students and families across the country?

It’s been a contentious summer here on Capitol Hill. Debating topics, I never thought we’d have to discuss – everything from separating children from their families at the border and whether the president has been compromised by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

ADVERTISEMENT

But for people across the country, bread and butter economic issues continue to be the priority. And for one of those issues – college affordability – August is the time when families start thinking about sending their kids off to college for orientation while seniors in high school start visiting colleges and planning where they want to spend their college careers.

Congress has the ability to relieve some of the burden on college affordability right now by passing the Perkins Loan Extension Act, which addresses college affordability by allowing the existing Perkins Loan program to continue serving over 500,000 students and families across the country. In this highly contentious environment where everything seems more and more polarized, I was proud to introduce this bill, on a bipartisan basis with 245 co-sponsors, making it one of the top 20 most cosponsored legislative bills that has yet to be voted on.

245 members of the House of Representatives – a majority of the body, including both Democrats and Republicans – have committed to supporting this bill, which would provide basic financial assistance to hundreds of thousands of students, many of whom are low- and middle-income students and the first in their families to seek higher education. With such a high level of support, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanEx-White House spokesman Raj Shah joins Fox Corporation as senior vice president Trump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report Ocasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud MORE (R-Wis.) could bring this bill to the floor and pass it. But he hasn’t.

Two years ago, Congress did the right thing and extended the life of this important financial aid program on a bipartisan basis with no objection, but in this era of hyper-partisanship, we’re hitting an unnecessary road block. It is very rare to find an issue that crosses political lines and actually does something to improve the lives of everyday Americans, and with that opportunity right in front of us, why wouldn’t we take it?

We need rigorous debate on the many complex issues before Congress, but as we work on those, let’s not ignore the low hanging fruit. Congress should act immediately to provide families with more certainty on college affordability by passing one of the most co-sponsored but ignored bills before this Congress – the Perkins Loan Extension Act.

Pocan represents Wisconsin’s 2nd District and is a member of the Appropriations Committee.