With less than a month to go before the interest rate on student loans doubles, the GOP keeps looking for ways to turn the issue to its advantage. In short, how can they use students to either make Democrats look bad or further cripple government programs—or both?
On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner told a closed-door meeting of House Republicans that he didn’t foresee making a deal on student loan rates by July 1st, the date when the interest rate jumps from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Further, he assured them, the Democrats would receive the blame for the failure.
A few hours later, Boehner sent a letter to President Obama outlining ways that the Republicans could be brought on board to make a deal, if only the Democrats would agree to rob one sector of the population in order to support the cuts for students. One proposal was to raise the contributions that federal workers make to their retirement benefits. Democrats object because government workers have already seen cuts to their benefits and their pay has been frozen for several years. A second proposal would cut off the loan subsidy for students who attend school part-time—presumably the most needy students, because they have to work or can’t afford to attend full-time—with an additional provision to limit the ability of states to recoup Medicaid costs.
The Senate and the House have each passed their own bills to keep the interest rates low, but have not reached a compromise version—one which would specify how to pay for the subsidy—that could be passed by both houses of Congress. Senate Democrats proposed a new tax on higher-income households that earn certain tax-free incomes, but Republicans are opposed to such taxes.
Calling Boehner’s letter to the President a cover-up for his closed-door remarks, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi added, “This letter is nothing but a damage-control effort to try to hide the disdain the House Republican leadership continues to show for the millions of American students who are struggling to afford to pay for college.” The Dems aren’t having it. As Tariq Trotter put it, in his slow-jam with President Obama, “Oh, Pell, no!”