(WASHINGTON) — The Senate Minority Leader declared it is the White House, not Congress, that is preventing an agreement to avoid the student loan rates from doubling in July.
As Vice President Joe Biden sits down Tuesday with college presidents to urge Congress to stop the student loan interest rate from doubling next month, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called out the White House for using “props” in an “elaborate farce the White House political team cooked up on this issue.”
Both Republicans and Democrats believe the subsidized Stafford loan rates should not be doubled this July from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent and agree the current rates should be extended for at least another year.
But both sides cannot agree to how to pay for the $6 billion bill.
House Republicans have already passed a proposal that would offset federal spending needed to keep student rates low by taking money from a fund to provide preventive care through the president’s health reform law. Democrats rejected that proposal.
Last month in the Senate both the Democratic and Republican versions failed in a last-minute, and half-hearted, attempt to pass a bill.
“The administration’s approach to this problem, it’s really nothing short of surreal,” McConnell declared from the floor of the senate Tuesday morning. “The only people dragging their feet on this issue are over at the White House itself. Republicans in Congress have been crystal clear for weeks; we’re ready to resolve the issue, to give students the certainty they need about their loan payments.”
The Vice President, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and CFPB Director Richard Cordray met Tuesday with a group of college presidents to reassert the call for Congress to stop the student loan interest rate from doubling.
On Thursday of last week House Speaker John Boehner, McConnell, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl sent a letter to President Obama outlining some new proposals – including raising contributions to retirement programs for federal workers – to pay for the bill. McConnell said Tuesday they are still waiting for a response.
A Senate Democratic aide says they continue to be open to discussions with Republicans and this issue will come up again in the Senate before the expiration date July 1.
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Dylan Byers, CNN
Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, CNN