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POLITICS: PennAve

Senate fight over student interest rates starts this week as House debates Veterans Affairs fix

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Politics,Congress,Education,Susan Ferrechio,Senate,House of Representatives,Veterans Affairs,PennAve,Student Loans

The Senate will consider legislation to lower Student loan interest rates this week, while House lawmakers debate measures to cut taxes for small businesses and consider bills aimed at privatizing and reforming veterans' health care.

While legislation churns through both chambers, lawmakers will also be focused on questions surrounding the swap of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, with classified briefings scheduled in both the House and Senate.

President Obama, meanwhile, is expected on Monday to endorse legislation authored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that would allow college students and college graduates with existing loans to refinance with the government at a lower interest rate - ranging from 3.86 percent to 6.41 percent.

Democrats propose paying for the legislation by implementing the so-called Buffett Rule, which would require a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for people earning more than than $1 million annually.

“Student loan debt is a drag on this economy,” Warren said. “So this is truly an emergency circumstance. It is hurting people, household by household by household, family by family by family, and it is also hurting this economy.”

Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the legislation, however, because it calls for a tax increase and would also result in the the federal government taking on more student loan debt, since those with private loans would also be permitted to refinance with the government at the lower rates.

The House, meanwhile, will vote on reviving two tax cut measures that expired in 2013. One bill would allow small businesses to deduct some of the the cost of purchasing equipment and supplies while a second bill would make it easier for businesses to donate to charities.

House lawmakers will also debate legislation aimed at addressing the ongoing problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is accused of mismanagement and malfeasance in running the nation's VA medical centers.

The House will vote on legislation authored by House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla. that would allow veterans to obtain medical care at facilities outside of the VA if they experience “extended waiting times for appointments at Department facilities.”

They'll also debate a VA accountability measure requiring the department's inspector general to report back to Congress if VA management is not complying with recommendations to reform the system.

Other House legislation on the agenda this week includes fiscal 2015 spending bills - one that would fund transportation, Housing and Urban Development and another that would fund agriculture, rural development and the Food and Drug Administration.

The House will also debate a bill that would make it easier for people to obtain federally backed loans by redefining by exempting fees and points from the qualified cap on mortgages.

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