Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

Schumer Loves Student Loan Politics

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., thinks the current fight to lock in lower student loan rates could result in good policy for American students and families. But no matter what, he says, it’s good politics for Democrats.

Schumer, the Senate Democrats’ messaging lieutenant, grew increasingly animated Tuesday in response to a question about his party’s student loan bill, which Democrats would like to vote on Thursday. He was asked how the Democrats would pay for the legislation — by closing tax loopholes, he said — but then offered unsolicited insight into why Democrats are pursuing the bill.

“Let me tell you: This issue is vital to the American people. I hear it everywhere I go. But it is a classic for us. Because there’s a hard-right group in the Republican Party who’s running the show on student loans who says, ‘We don’t think the federal government should help middle-class families on making it easier to go to college,’” Schumer said. “We welcome and relish that debate.

“Not only because it’s most important aspect, helping students, but second,” he continued, raising his voice, “because it shows the difference between the two parties on a key issue.”

At the same time, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also was fielding questions about the Democrats’ student loan bill, which differs from legislation passed by the House that the Obama administration already has threatened to veto.

“We have no reason to work out a compromise,” Reid said. “I’m not looking for compromise. I’m looking to pass our bill.”

Reid added he would like a Thursday morning vote on student loan legislation.

As #WGDB reported previously, the White House is uncomfortable with the House legislation because it does not lock in rates for students at the level loans are issued and uses the extra revenue generated from that policy to pay down the debt.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., broke from weekly tradition of having his leadership team speak at a media availability after the party’s weekly luncheon and instead brought along Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Richard Burr of North Carolina. Alexander, the top Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, along with Coburn and Burr, introduced a student loan alternative that, unlike the House bill, would lock in rates. However, unlike the bill Reid is considering, it would provide a permanent fix to the rate problem. The legislation Reid is looking to move to the floor is a fully offset, two-year extension of current law.

CQ Roll Call’s Lauren Smith contributed to this report.

This post has been updated to reflect a clarification on vote timing.

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