Congress has until July 1 to act on student-loan interest rates, or rates will doubt for over 7 million students, who'll face an average of $1,000 in additional debt. At this point, given Republican intransigence, the odds of eventual success appear to be dwindling.
House Republicans passed its version of the bill two weeks ago, paying for an extension of current rates by taking money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. In effect, the House GOP said Democrats could help on student loans, but only if Republicans cut funding for breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings.
Senate Democrats brought their version to the floor today, which would also keep interest rates where they are, and pay for it 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 have, in the recent past, pointed to this as the kind of loophole they might be willing to close.
So, no problem, right? Wrong.
Republicans have blocked the Senate from debating a Democratic bill keeping interest rates on college loans from doubling this summer for 7.4 million students. [...]Tuesday's vote was 52-45 to debate the measure -- eight votes short of the 60 needed.
All 45 votes against the bill came from Republicans*, including vulnerable incumbents like Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Maine's Olympia Snowe (R) voted "present."
Keep in mind, most of the Senate, like most of the public, supports the Democratic proposal, as does the Obama White House. If given an up-or-down vote in the chamber, it at least would have passed the Senate. But a Republican filibuster shut the bill down.
Incidentally, what does Mitt Romney think about this? The presumptive GOP presidential nominee has endorsed the idea of keeping the lower interest rates in place, but has refused to say which of the versions he supports. That tends to be his style.
* Update: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) switched his vote for procedural reasons -- by technically voting against it, he can bring the bill back to the floor at a later time -- but he backed the measure and voted to end the filibuster.