President Obama renewed a White House push to prevent interest rates on federal student loans from doubling at the end of the month, demanding on Thursday that Congress immediately pass legislation to avoid a hike.
“Congress has had the time to fix this for months,” Obama said at the White House, flanked by a group of students. “This issue didn’t come out of nowhere, it’s been looming for months but we’ve been stuck watching Congress play chicken with another deadline.”
Obama has toured colleges around the country trying to raise awareness among affected students about the coming increase. On the political side, it’s also provided a good excuse to reach out to young voters, who are critical to Obama’s re-election prospects and increasingly burdened by exploding tuition costs and student debt. Obama noted in his statement on Thursday that total student loan debt nationwide has surpassed total credit card debt.
“You can’t stand by when millions of young people are already saddled with debt just when you’re starting off,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling that we’ve had this stalemate in Washington that threatens to make it even worse.”
Both House and Senate Republicans, along with Mitt Romney have said they support preventing the higher rates from kicking in, but negotiations in Congress have hit a wall as the GOP and Democrats propose different accompanying cuts elsewhere to help offset the $6 billion cost of extending the subsidies. House Republicans passed a bill that would take the money from health care programs included in the Affordable Care Act, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wants to adjust payments for pension insurance.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.