U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) this week advocated for several pieces of legislation before the House Ways and Means Committee. He discussed bills he has introduced to help reduce student debt, prevent colon cancer, and increase funding for pediatric cancer. Additionally, Davis encouraged the committee to take up the newly-negotiated USMCA trade agreement.
Davis' student loan bill, which helps employers offer a benefit to employees to pay down their student loans, much like they can currently offer continued education benefits, has been endorsed by Ivanka Trump and the administration. Additionally, the bill was recently featured in a CBS This Morning piece where the company New Balance committed to offering this benefit to employees if this legislation was to become law.
Thank you, Chairman Neal and Ranking Member Brady for allowing me to testify before you today. I’m going to be talking about several priorities that this committee holds jurisdiction over.
Right now the average student graduates with over $32,000 in student loan debt and the average graduate student carries a debt of about $65,000. It now represents the second highest form of consumer debt in America – 44.7 million Americans are responsible for $1.52 trillion in student debt, collectively.
HR 1043, the Employer Participation in Repayment Act is a real, tangible plan that if passed and implemented, would put our students on the right track to controlling their debt.
This legislation, which I have introduced the last several congresses and this year with my colleague from California, Scott Peters (who is also testifying today), would allow businesses to help pay down their employees’ student loan debt, up to $5,250.50 per year, tax free –the same model companies already use for tuition reimbursement.
Right now, our bill has 144 cosponsors and holds strong support from a coalition of over 75 education and business organizations. Businesses and corporations are already offering this benefit to their employees, but there is clear support and evidence that if this bill passes, even more companies will jump in. The Senate version, introduced by Senators Thune and Warner, also enjoys bipartisan support.
Last year, at a Workforce Development event in my district, Ivanka Trump expressed her strong support for the bill. In fact, in a May 24 news story, “CBS This Morning” reported on both the House and Senate versions of this bill, recognizing Ivanka’s and the Administration’s support. The story even included a quote from the company New Balance, based in the Chairman’s home state of Massachusetts. New Balance said:
“The company will introduce a student loan repayment benefit. All we are waiting for is federal legislation.”
Other major companies have also said this – Now it’s on us to finally get this thing done.
I appreciate this committee’s consideration of this legislation and I look forward to working with each and every one of you to get this bipartisan bill to the floor where it will pass with strong support.
Davis joined his colleague Congressman Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) to introduce a bill (H.R. 1570) to increase colon cancer screenings. Davis' wife Shannon is a 19-year cancer survivor.
Shifting now to healthcare, my wife is a survivor of early-onset colorectal cancer, and because of this, I strongly advocate for screening access. As such, I urge your consideration of H.R. 1570, the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2019. This legislation waives Medicare’s cost-sharing requirements for the removal of polyps or tissue during colorectal cancer screenings. While the colorectal cancer screening itself has no cost-share, the costs associated with the potential removal of tissue can act as a deterrent to individuals who would otherwise be screened. With 254 co-sponsors, your attention to this legislation is appreciated.
One of Davis' priorities is increasing funding for pediatric cancer research, which currently only receives 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute's budget. He recently introduced a bill to increase funding.
Another piece of legislation I would like to discuss is H.R. 2234, the Jonny Wade Pediatric Cancer Research Act. Jonny was a remarkable young man I was fortunate enough to meet before brain cancer took him from us far too soon at the age of eight. Cancer is the second leading cause of death for children yet only 4% of cancer research funds go to children – we must do more. For this reason, I introduced this legislation which transfers the $372.8 Million sitting idly in the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to the 10-Year Pediatric Research Initiative Fund. Once there, NIH can use the funds to research pediatric diseases and conditions including cancer. Jonny never wanted another kid to have cancer, and I will always advocate on his behalf for more pediatric cancer research funding.
Davis has encourage Congress to take up the newly-negotiated USMCA trade agreement to provide greater trading opportunities for farmers and American businesses.
Finally, I would like to take a second to express my strong support for the newly-negotiated USMCA. When this agreement becomes law, American workers and businesses will benefit greatly while having tariff-free access to sell United States products in Mexico and Canada while ensuring American jobs are kept here in America. I look forward to its passage and appreciate your leadership on this and other important issues.