Republicans and Democrats in Congress are once again fighting over something both sides claim to agree on: preventing interest rates on millions of federal student loans from doubling this summer.
The U.S House on Friday approved legislation that would keep interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent for another year, rather than automatically growing to 6.8 percent on July 1.
U.S. Senate Democrats promptly declared the legislation dead in their chamber and President Barack Obama promised to veto it. The sticking point is how to pay for the estmated $6 billion cost of the measure. House Republicans want to take funds from a preventive health fund established by Obama’s health care overhaul law, Senate Democrats want to boost payroll taxes on owners of some private corporations and House Democrats would erase federal subsidies to oil and gas companies.
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney voiced his support for blocking the rate increase. Obama visited three college campuses last week, using campaign-style speeches to chide Republicans for dragging their feet on the measure, which drew a stern rebuke from House Speaker John Boehner.
Partisan bickering has been the rule rather than the exception during the current session of Congress, with each side seemingly more eager to score political points at the others’ expense rather than working together to forge common-sense solutions to a myriad of challenges the country faces. With this being an election year, the rhetoic and rancor has only increased.
About 7.4 million low- and middle-income students with subsidized Stafford student loans would be hit with a substantial cost increase should Congress fail to act. Members of both parties need to put aside their election-year antics and find a compromise plan to extend the low interest rates.