Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Facing a barrage of questions, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) Thursday sought the removal of a special provision he had written into the package of fixes to the Senate health care bill that would have applied only to the Bank of North Dakota.
The provision would have allowed the Bank of North Dakota to continue to originate and service student loans even though a pending overhaul says that all such loans will originate through the U.S. Department of Education, beginning July 1. The bill stipulated that only North Dakota residents attending North Dakota schools would be eligible for the loans.
The Bank of North Dakota is a nonprofit owned by the state and overseen by the Industrial Commission, which includes the governor, secretary of agriculture and attorney general. It is the only state-owned bank in the country.
Conrad is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, which is taking the lead in managing the health care reconciliation bill in the Senate. Shortly after the bill became public, Conrad asked that the provision be taken out.
"In this environment, it became too much of a distraction from what is a much bigger issue," Conrad told Politics Daily.
Earlier, Conrad said he knew he risked coming under fire for creating a special exception for his state, but he felt it was the right thing to do.
"You know, the thing I have learned is you come under attack here no matter what," he said in the Capitol. "I tried to make a case for many months about this to our colleagues. They recognize this is a unique situation, but it would apply to every state. It just happens we're the only state in the nation where the people own this institution."