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Student Loan Twofer: Both Senate Rate Cap Bills Shot Down

By John Sandman

NEW YORK ( MainStreet)----Two bills were voted down by the Senate on Friday that would have halted the spike in rates on federal student loans, which are set to double on July 1 from 3.4% to 6.8%.

The Democratic bill-- The Student Loan Affordability Act, introduced by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Tom Harken (D-IA)-would have locked in the current rates for the next two years. This temporary fix would have removed a rate hike as an issue from the 2014 off-year election. A Republican bill, The Comprehensive Student Loan Protection Act introduced by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC), would have linked rate rises at 2% above the 10-year Treasury bill.

Both the Obama administration and House Republicans are advocating similar solutions that would link rate increases to the 10-year T-bill. Total student loan debt in the U.S. is about $1 trillion.

"What we put forward today was a perfectly sensible solution to help address the problem," said Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash in a statement on Friday. Murray said the Democratic bill would have saved 7 million college students with Stafford loans from rate increases. "It seems like a no-brainer to me, but apparently not to Republicans."

"I cannot understand why we're having a problem with this," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters after the vote.

Reid stated before last week's vote that he has no interest in compromise while House Republicans accused Senate Democrats of obstructing their own bill.

"The Senate has a chance to do the right thing and advance a similar plan, opening the door for bipartisan negotiation and agreement," said Rep. John Kline (R-MN) last week, who co-sponsored a bill with Virginia Fox (R-NC) . "However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to have drawn a line in the sand, telling the public he's 'not looking for a compromise' and only wants another temporary fix."

"Students and families deserve better from their elected representatives," said Kline, chair of the House Education and Workforce committee. "We have a responsibility to seek common ground and advance lasting solutions on their behalf. President Obama should urge Senator Reid to reconsider his position and join House efforts to advance a responsible plan that serves the best interests of borrowers and taxpayers."

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