Mitch McConnell on Senate floor: Student loan reform should have been a “slam dunk”

Mitch McConnellSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor Thursday morning to chastise Democrats for completely disregarding even the president’s wishes for student loan reform, commenting that it should have been a non-controversial “slam dunk” issue.

His comments preceded the chamber’s votes on two different bills, both of which would prevent the interest rates on federal student loans from doubling on July 1, however neither of them managed to muster the 60 votes needed to end debate on the bills.

“Both the President and Republicans want to prevent rates from going up in July,” McConnell said in his speech.  “And the ideas Republicans have put forward on this issue are actually quite similar to what the President has already proposed.  So this should’ve been a slam dunk.”

The Republicans’ bill, which was introduced by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and is similar to the bill the House passed last month, was shot down by a vote of 57-40. The Democrats’ bill, introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), also failed to clear the procedural vote to end debate on the legislation by a vote of 51-46. Their bill would have only kept the student loan interest rates down for two more years.

McConnell described the Democrats’ plan as one that “fails the very benchmarks of the President himself,” noting that the plan would ultimately cost taxpayers more than $8 billion dollars while only saving students an average of $6 a month.

“We owe [students] certainty and stability, and permanent reform along the lines Republicans and President Obama have called for will do that,” McConnell said.  “So it’s time for Democrats in Washington to put the campaigning aside and work with us to enact just that type of reform.”

According to the nonprofit organization American Student Assistance, nearly 60 percent of college students take out loans to pay for college tuition. In addition, the amount of money that Americans owe in student loans is now greater than that owed in credit card debt.

The interest rates on student loans were set to double last year, however Congress delayed the increase by a year in a last-minute vote.