NPR : News

Filed Under:

GOP Senators Block Democrats' Student Loan Bill

Senate Republicans gave a thumbs down to a Democratic plan that would have frozen interest rates for 7.4 million students taking out new federally subsidized Stafford loans.

The vote was 52-45. Sixty votes were needed to avoid a certain Republican filibuster and to move the bill toward debate.

From the Republican perspective, it wasn't the idea of keeping the rate at 3.4 percent rather than letting it double starting in July. The impasse was over how to fund the one-year rate freeze, which would cost the government $6 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The defeated Democratic bill would have eliminated a tax break for some corporate-stock holders, but Republicans want to pay for it by killing a preventative health care fund that's part of the 2010 health care overhaul law.

President Obama has made an issue of the student loan fight, hoping to paint Republicans as anti-education. But both sides see the political value in the rate freeze, at least on their terms. GOP senators are demanding a vote on their alternative.

According to The Associated Press:

Behind the scenes, aides from both parties have been trying to find a consensus way to pay for the bill. With neither party eager to appear to be causing college students to bear higher costs, conventional wisdom is that eventually a compromise will be struck, but first the political posturing will have to play out.

The political wrangling takes place against a backdrop of some urgency. Student loans have surpassed auto loans and credit cards as the single-largest source of individual debt. A third of undergraduates are more than $20,000 in debt when they graduate, while nearly half of those who pursued a master's degree are.

The New York Times says:

At a time when Americans owe more on student loans than on credit cards — student debt is topping $1 trillion for the first time — and the Occupy movement has highlighted the rising furor over spiraling student debt, the issue has moved higher on the political agenda. But the question of what to do about the looming interest rate increase has landed deep in the chasm separating Democrats from Republicans, who accuse the president of using the issue in a fiscally irresponsible way, in an attempt to buy the youth vote.

The Department of Education estimates that 7.4 million students will borrow $31.6 million in Stafford loans for low- and middle-income students starting July 1, when the rate increase goes into effect. That averages out to $4,226 per student. The rate change is not retroactive.

The loans are usually paid off gradually in the years after graduation.

The White House has said the rate change would add about $1,000 to the total cost of the loan.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Kate Mulgrew: "Born With Teeth" (Rebroadcast)

Kate Mulgrew, who stars as "Red" in the Netflix TV series "Orange Is The New Black", opens up in a new memoir about her complicated family and the baby she gave away for adoption as a young woman.


Swapping The Street For The Orchard, City Dwellers Take Their Pick Of Fruit

Urban foragers don't just pick their meals from the trash; many eat only the finest, freshest produce — picked from city trees. The League of Urban Canners harvests fruit from trees to make jam.

Reconsidering The Pilgrims, Piety And America's Founding Principles

Conservatives who want to emphasize America's Christian roots embrace the story of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. But some historians say their role in the country's founding is overstated.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.