The Pell Grants sticking point

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.