House Votes to Extend Lower Rate on Student Loans

April 30, 2012

(Photo by Li Tsin Soon)

WASHINGTON – As the House passed a bill Friday to prevent an increse in interest rates for new loans for college students, Colorado Republicans and Democrats assailed the other side for being more interested in political posturing than compromise.

The measure would extend the interest rate for undergraduate Federal Direct Stafford loans at 3.4 percent for another year. The rate is scheduled to rise to 6.8 percent on July 1 and while a strong majority in the House supports locking in the current rate, Republicans and Democrats differ about paying for the rate freeze.

The Republican-led House passed the bill 215 to 195, with some conservative Democrats joining some conservative Republicans voting against it. President Obama said Friday he would veto the legislation if it came to his desk because it contains curbs in public-health spending.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Lone Tree) said he voted for H.R. 4628 “to extend the rates for college students who are graduating at a time when the economy has not yet recovered.”

Coffman rejected Democratic criticism that the bill would take money out of a public-health fund in President Obama’s healthcare law. “It’s been raided before. Money was taken out for the payroll tax cut. I absolutely think we need health care reform,” said Coffman, who supports repealing Obama’s health care law and replacing it.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) said he voted against the legislation because it failed to pay for the rate freeze properly. Earlier in the week, Polis said on the House floor that by introducing the legislation on Wednesday and scheduling a vote on it Friday, House Republicans violated their pledge to give lawmakers 72 hours to consider legislation before voting on it. “Republicans are using very funny math,” he said in an interview Friday.

The House Rules Committee, which Polis sits on, considered the bill, but the House Education and Workforce Committee did not. A House Education committee spokesperson was unavailable for comment. For his part, Coffman said the criticism was “a fair point.”

While Polis criticized Republicans, the National Republican Campaign Committee criticized Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Lakewood) for his health-care votes that they said deny funding for education loan programs. He opposed the House bill Friday.

Perlmutter accused the GOP of taking the issue to the brink. “House Republicans need to stop bringing Americans to the brink with their partisan gamesmanship.  Our students, families, and all Americans need certainty and stability in our economy. I support maintaining lower interest rates for student loans,” he said in a statement.

Republicans representatives Scott Tipton of Grand Junction and Cory Gardner of Fort Collins joined Coffman in voting for the bill, while Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) joined Polis and Perlmutter in voting against it

Amid the political in-fighting, both sides believe a deal to continue the rate freeze will be struck. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) a former chairman of the House Education Committee, said in an interview he thinks House and Senate leaders will find a way for “something to be worked out.”

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