(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Thursday demanded that lawmakers act to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1, saying it was “mind-boggling” that the stalemate has lasted this long.
“This should be a no-brainer. It should not be difficult. It should have gotten done weeks ago,” the president told students, parents and educators at the White House. “There’s still 10 days for Congress to do the right thing. I understand that members of both parties say they want to get this done and there are conversations taking place, but they haven’t done it yet. And we’ve got to keep the pressure on.”
Both Republicans and Democrats believe the subsidized Stafford loan rates should not be doubled from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent and agree the current rates should be extended for at least another year. But the sides cannot agree to how to pay for the $6 billion bill.
Democrats propose raising the Medicare and Social Security payroll taxes on high-earning stockholders of some privately owned companies. Republicans oppose the measure.
Republicans propose getting rid of a preventative health fund that was created in the health care bill. Democrats oppose that and the proposal has no chance of getting though a Democratically-controlled Senate.
On Thursday, the president accused Republicans of stalling.
“Congress has had the time to fix this for months. That’s part of the reason why everybody here looks impatient,” Obama said to laughter from the audience in the East Room. “This issue didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s been looming for months. But we’ve been stuck watching Congress play chicken with another deadline.”
Republicans, however, claim they have been trying to solve the issue but that the president prefers to play politics.
“This is just another sad example of his election-year strategy of deflection and distraction,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Thursday.
The Senate has failed at passing both Democratic and Republican proposals. The House of Representatives has passed its plan, but the Democratically-controlled Senate has not taken it up, and it wouldn’t stand a chance of passing the Senate.
GOP leaders outlined their proposals to pay for the bill’s estimated $6 billion price tag earlier this month based on savings the president included in his budget plan, but say the White House never responded.
“We’ve reached out to the president,” McConnell said. “We’ve proposed multiple good-faith solutions. The only reason this issue isn’t already resolved — the only reason — is that the president wants to keep it alive. He thinks it benefits him politically for college students to believe we’re the problem. It’s time to stop the games. It’s time for the president to act.”
Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday said while Congress is “not there yet,” he’s confident that they’re down the right road on the bill and can make progress before the July 1 deadline. He insisted that over the last two days there have been meetings that have given him this hope.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Ryan Browne and Evan Perez, CNN