President Obama this week issued an executive order to help millions of young people with student-loan payments, lowering payments based on income and loan duration. The program already existed, but the new White House policy greatly expanded eligibility.
But while making the announcement on this on Monday, Obama also endorsed the next logical step: approval of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) proposal to make it easier for students to refinance their loans.
This morning, Senate Republicans blocked the chamber from voting on the idea.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation aimed at letting people refinance their student loans at lower rates, a pre-ordained outcome that gave Democrats a fresh election-year talking point against the GOP.The 56-38 vote fell short of the 60 that would have been needed to advance to debate on the measure by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Her bill would have let millions of borrowers, some with years-old debt and interest rates topping 7 percent or more, refinance at today’s lower rates.The bill would have been paid for with the so-called Buffett Rule, which sets minimum tax rates for people making over $1 million.
The final roll call is here. Note that the vote to break the Republican filibuster technically ended up with 56 votes, but it had 57 before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to switch his vote for procedural reasons. What’s more, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) missed this morning’s vote, but supports the legislation.
I mention these details because the proposal would really only need two more Republican votes to break the filibuster and allow the Senate to advance the bill. But that support apparently won’t materialize. Warren’s bill picked up a total of three GOP votes this morning – Collins, Corker, and Murkowski – but it needed five. (Zero Democrats voted against it.)
And that’s a shame because this is a good idea that would help a lot of people.
Last year, GOP senators filibustered student interest rate relief before acquiescing to a compromise bill at the 11th hour. That legislation prevented interest rates on new federal loans from doubling to 6.8 percent. But the law didn’t do anything to help the 40 million Americans swimming in existing student loan debt, some of whom are paying back loans with rates of up to 10 percent. Warren’s bill … would reduce most of these Americans’ federal student loan interest rates to the current rate on new undergraduate loans: 3.86 percent.
That would, of course, cost a fair amount of money, which Warren’s bill would finance through the “Buffett Rule” measure. Republicans, as expected, condemned the tax provision, though Senate Democrats said they were open to alternative financing.
GOP senators offered no alternative, preferring instead to just block the Senate from voting on the bill.