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POLITICS: PennAve

Harry Reid slams Republicans over student loan rate hike

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday amped up the blame game over the rate doubling for government-subsidized student loans, pinning the problem on Republican “obstruction.”

The interest rates for new federal Stafford loans jumped to 6.8 percent on July 1 from 3.4 percent after Congress failed to agree on a plan to keep the rates from rising. The Nevada Democrat wants a one-year interest rate freeze at 3.4 percent, while Republicans are pushing Senate Democrats to accept a House-passed bill that ties rates to the financial markets, similar to a proposal from President Obama.

Reid complains that because of market fluctuations, the Republican-crafted House bill, as well as a similar Senate Republican proposal, would result in loan rates significantly increasing in subsequent years.

“Speaker Boehner says the House has acted and the ball is in the Senate’s court. But Democrats can’t support a plan that would be worse for students than doing nothing at all,” Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

“We have to take action. The rising price of college means too many young people are deferring higher education.”

Reid added that while Democrats have been willing to compromise on the issue, Republicans have refused to budge.

“I hope Senate Republicans won’t block a second common-sense plan to invest in our economy by keeping college affordable,” the Democrat said.

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on Reid’s one-year extension of the 3.4 percent rate. But getting the required 60 votes to pass the measure is doubtful, as few if any Republicans are expected to support it.

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