Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loan bill hit the floor of the Senate Wednesday. If implemented, it would allow those with older student loans, who often have an annual interest of 6 percent or greater, to refinance down their loans.
The bill would have an estimated cost of $50 billion or more, and Warren proposed to pay for it by implementing the “Buffet Rule,” which mandates a minimum tax of 30 percent on all types of income greater than $1 million.
As expected, the bill was blocked by Republicans immediately. On a 56-38 vote, the bill failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to proceed. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine were the only Republicans to vote for the measure. By employing a controversial tax increase to provide financing, Warren ensured the bill would be dead on arrival for the Republican Party.
According to liberal sources, however, the bill’s failure is all part of the plan.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a grassroots left-wing organization that claims over 1 million members, says that activists and candidates for office are already campaigning on the bill and trying to savage Republicans for opposing it. By immediately striking down Warren’s bill, “they’ve given progressives the upper hand when engaging voters on the popular issue of college affordability,” a representative of the group told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Student loans in this country top $1.2 trillion and are strangling our economy. Any Republican who voted against this bill voted against students and voted against our economy. They just handed Democrats a huge opportunity. Progressive candidates are already campaigning all over the country on this issue,” PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a statement.
President Obama has been getting in on the effort as well, promoting Warren’s doomed bill during a Tuesday appearance on the microblogging site Tumblr. (RELATED: Obama Talks Education And ‘Misspent Youth’)
The campaign is part of a broader effort to reduce a Democratic disadvantage in the 2014 midterms, by increasing laggardly youth turnout and reducing a significant enthusiasm gap. Their efforts could pay off: A Harvard poll from last December found that 42 percent of 18- to 29-year olds have student loan debt, and 57 percent consider it a major problem.
Republicans aren’t deceived about the intent of the bill either. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a press conference Wednesday that Democrats “want an issue to campaign on to save their own hides this November.”
Republicans have dismissed Warren and Obama’s measures as “gimmicks” and costly handouts to indebted students that do nothing to reverse the overall trend of rising college costs. The party also isn’t without its own ideas on how to handle student loans, which they could push more aggressively as alternatives if Democrats are successful in putting a spotlight on the issue.
Reps. John Kline of Minnesota and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina have proposed pegging student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note to keep interest rates lower, while Rep. Tom Petri of Wisconsin has long promoted an approach that would put all graduates with federal loans automatically onto an income-based repayment plan that would automatically deduct money from graduates’ paychecks.
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