Last Thursday, Senate Republicans filibustered the Democrats’ bill that would prevent a spike in student loan rates. The student loan rate is set to double, to 6.8 percent, on July 1 of this year if Congress does not take action. The Democrats’ bill would freeze need-based student loan interest rates for two years, giving Congress time to find a long-term solution to the ever-increasing student loan debt, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
The Democrats needed 60 votes to overcome the filibuster, but were 9 votes short; the legislation received 51 votes – all from Democrats. Rather than decrease exorbitant interest rates on student loans, Republicans proposed to tie the interest rates to the yield on the government’s 10-year Treasury bill, a proposal that was also blocked on Thursday.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, argued that the Republican bill would be worse for students than passing no bill, according to the Huffington Post. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of pushing their bill simply to keep the issue of student loan interest rates “alive for their permanent campaign.”
“It’s a bill Democrats know will fail,” he said. “In fact they actually seem to be indicating they want it to fail.”
Whilst the partisan bickering continues, millions of Americans are struggling with student loan debt. In 2011, two-thirds of college seniors graduated with approximately $27,000 in student loan debt. An entire generation of students are trying to cope with a slow-growing economy and suffocating debt that may be with them for a very long time, preventing many young Americans from realizing their dreams of owning a home or starting a family, among others.
Generation I.O.U. does have one very outspoken advocate in Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren berated Republicans for blocking the Democrats’ bill that would aid Americans with their student loan debt. According to Mother Jones, Warren called the GOP “morally bankrupt” for blocking the proposals to keep student loan interest rates low:
There are strong proposals on the table that would keep interest rates low while Congress has time to work out a permanent solution. And yet, Congress fails to act.
Have we become a people who will support our big banks with nearly free loans, while we crush our kids who are trying to get an education?… This is morally wrong, and we must put a stop to it.
Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.