As interest rates on federal student loans threaten to double in just nine days, President Obama again expressed his disapproval of Congress “playing chicken with another deadline.”
Without congressional action on the student loan bill, interest rates for new federal student loans are set to spike from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. Addressing a group of students Thursday afternoon, Obama reminded Republican House members “there’s still 10 days to do the right thing.”
At a White House press briefing earlier that morning, Press Secretary Jay Carney communicated similar sentiments when he told reporters that the White House has worked “broadly” with lawmakers on the student loans issue. “We have made every effort to resolve this matter,” said Carney.
Despite bipartisan support to keep student loan interest rates low, the White House and Congress have yet to reach a compromise. Both sides disagree on how to best foot the bill for the $6 billion extension.
In the face of Obama’s accusations, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that, “We proposed multiple good-faith solutions to this problem before it’s too late. And we have been waiting ever since for the president’s response. He’s missing in action. He has yet to offer a concrete solution.”
CBS News reported that Republican leaders sent a series of proposals to the White House a few weeks ago with funding suggestions for the $6 billion in projected cost. House Republicans passed a measure which would maintain the low interest rates by taking money from a preventative healthcare program in April.
The White House vowed to veto the proposals because of recommended cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund as well as requirements for federal workers to increase monthly contributions to their retirement plans.
Sen. McConnell said the rejected proposals and Mr. Obama’s rhetoric indicate the White House is trying to score political points. “The only reason this issue isn’t already resolved — the only reason — is that the President wants to keep it alive,” McConnell said on the Senate floor yesterday, “He thinks it benefits him politically for college students to believe we’re the problem.”
There is no doubt that college students and recent graduates are struggling with a rather grim economic outlook. A recent Census Bureau report showed that the official poverty rate for Americans ages 25 to 34 was 8.5 percent in 2010, but if the analysis measured personal income alone, the true poverty rate for Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 was closer to 45.3 percent in 2010.
In addition to speaking to college students yesterday, President Obama has traveled to major college campuses within the past few weeks. Republicans have suggested the president is exploiting the issue to fire up key demographic populations for his re-election campaign, according to The Washington Times.
“College graduates are struggling to find work and pay their bills in the Obama economy,” McConnell said yesterday. “[Obama would] like them to believe it is someone else’s fault.”