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Ear to the Ground

As Deadline Nears, Dueling Student Loan Bills Stall in Senate

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Posted on May 24, 2012
Photo by Mike Renlund

The Senate has come to an impasse over how to extend low federal student loan interest rates.

Despite agreeing that low federal student loan interest rates should be extended, Democrats and Republicans have not been able to come together to do so. On Thursday, the Senate rejected two competing plans that would have kept student loan rates from doubling to 6.8 percent on July 1.

The issue: Neither side can figure out how to pay for the $6 billion it would cost to keep the interest rates low. Republicans want to close a fund that pays for preventive health care to offset the cost, while Democrats would eliminate some business tax breaks. —TEB

The Hill:

The failure of the two measures — one backed by Democrats and one backed by Republicans — guarantees both parties will continue to battle over how to keep the loan rate low over the coming weeks, right through spring graduations that have helped call attention to the issue.

The Democratic bill failed in a 51-43 vote — attaining a majority, but short of the 60 required for passage. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) voted present.

Just before that vote, the GOP bill, which was offered as a substitute amendment and also needed 60 votes, failed 34-62. Snowe voted present again, and nine Republicans voted against the amendment.

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