Boehner excoriates Dems for student loan rate hikes

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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WASHINGTON — Congress is back in session, and so is the blame game over which party is at fault for the doubling of student loan rates a week ago.

House Republican leadership excoriated Senate Democrats at a press conference Monday afternoon for failing to pass a bill to avoid student loan hikes, and attacked President Barack Obama for not getting his party in line, questioning whether Democrats even wanted a solution to the rate increases.

“Republicans have acted to stop student loans interest rate from doubling … The White House and Senate Democrats have let these students down, and frankly I think they deserve better,” Boehner said, standing on the steps of the Capitol building flanked on all sides by a group of students.

The Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would keep student loan rates from rising. It is similar to the proposal outlined by Obama in his budget. A similar proposal was made in the Senate by a bipartisan group of Senators, but Majority Leader Harry Reid shot it down almost immediately, saying it would allow federal student loan rates to spike several years down the road. Unable to reach an agreement, the Senate left for Fourth of July recess, during which time the interest rates on federal student loans doubled.

Speaking of the Senate’s handling of the issue, Boehner said: “You begin to wonder whether they’re looking for a solution.”

Boehner and the rest of Republican leadership stood on the steps of the Capitol with students on all sides who are ostensibly struggling to deal with their student loans. An aide helping to organize the event said the majority of those present were interns for House Republicans, and the majority were dealing with student loans.

The Speaker attacked Obama for failing to get Reid and other Democrats on board with a student loans fix.

“The failure to lead on student loans is part of the president’s larger issues, and that is the failure to lead on the biggest issues facing our country: jobs and the economy,” Boehner said.

Reid said earlier on Monday that it was Boehner who was at fault for the lack of a deal, saying his adherence to the Hastert Rule — under which a bill is not brought to the floor unless it is supported by the majority of the majority party — “prevented Speaker Boehner from finding a sensible solution to student loan rates.”

The Senate’s inaction, Reid said, was better than the alternative. Passing the House Republican’s bill, he said, would be “worse for students than doing nothing at all.”

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