- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush said yesterday that the credit crunch is threatening student loan availability and his administration is helping with emergency loans but prodded Congress for authority to do more.

“A slowdown in the economy shouldn’t mean a downturn in educational opportunities,” Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address.

He voiced support for a House-passed bill that would grant the Education Department greater temporary authority to provide loans to students unable to secure ones from banks or other lenders. A similar measure by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, is pending in the Senate.

The president urged Congress to get the legislation to his desk “as soon as possible.”

“A delay of even a week or two may make it impossible for this legislation to help students going to school this fall,” Mr. Bush said.

Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, asked the public yesterday to pressure Mr. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress to change energy policies that have led to record gas prices and intense economic pressures on working people, veteran Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg said yesterday.

“It’s long past time to change our national priorities,” the New Jersey senator said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address. “We know there’s little hope that President Bush will suddenly wake up and see the light. But unfortunately, his Republican allies in Congress continue to stand by his side, with the oil and energy companies for the status quo and against the American people.”

Mr. Lautenberg said Democrats are attempting to change the nation’s approach to energy but face stiff resistance from Mr. Bush and his allies.

“Democrats are fighting hard for change, and we have made real progress,” Mr. Lautenberg said. “We passed a new energy bill that begins to turn the tide by improving gas mileage for cars and trucks, investing in clean, renewable fuels and other smart energy steps, such as improving the energy efficiency of our buildings.”

Another short-term problem is reducing the market speculation that drives up fuel prices. But the long-term answer is to cut the nation’s dependency on fossil fuel, he said.

“Our country burns 21 million gallons of oil every day,” he said. “Two-thirds of that oil is imported from unstable regions of the world, run by governments who are not our friends. The long-term solution to our energy crisis lies in alternative fuels and efficiency.”

Making those changes would result in “hundreds of thousands of good new jobs” in this country, he said. But he warned that “Republicans won’t break with the status quo easily. The grip of Big Oil and energy companies is strong.”

“That’s why we need you to help us keep the pressure on President Bush and the Republicans who are intent on rewarding their oil friends while they stick the American people with the bill,” Mr. Lautenberg said.

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