Congress has until June 30 to act on student-loan interest rates, or rates will double for over 7 million students, who’ll face an average of $1,000 in additional debt. The assumption has been that policymakers would work something out before the deadline.
That assumption is probably wrong. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his caucus this morning in a closed-door meeting that failure is not only an option, it’s likely.
Boehner told the House Republican Conference Thursday morning that it was unlikely Congress would be able to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling before the end of the month, but he blamed the Senate, since the lower chamber has already passed a bill. He dubbed the fight “phony,” and urged his members not to fall victim to what he considers a manufactured tussle.
First, the issue isn’t “phony” at all to those affected by it. By allowing interest rates to double, Republican policymakers will force those with student loans to pay more every month, undermining their purchasing power. Why the Speaker sees this as “phony” is unclear, but he’s wrong.
Second, blaming the Senate is silly. The House passed its version, but paid for it by cutting access to breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings. Senate Democrats offered an alternative, paying for the lower rates by closing a tax loophole that currently allows some very wealthy people to shield some of their earnings from the payroll tax (the S-corp provision). Republicans killed the proposal with yet another filibuster.
As far as Boehner is apparently concerned, it’s either the House version or nothing, which means student loans interest rates will likely double just 30 days from now. (Update: Boehner’s office told TPM the Speaker is “ready to talk about” a solution, but he remains committed to a House bill that can’t pass the Senate or get President Obama’s signature.)
Incidentally, that’s not all the Speaker had to say this morning.
“Let’s call bulls— bulls—,” he told House Republicans in a closed meeting this morning. “This election is about jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Boehner and his caucus will demonstrate their laser-like focus on jobs today with a vote on another anti-abortion bill.