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Obama, McConnell Push Student Loan Compromise

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

It’s an understatement to say President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell aren’t exactly kindred spirits, but on Tuesday the two men were in sync on a compromise student loan proposal opposed by key Senate Democrats.

Obama and the Kentucky Republican urged Senate passage of a bipartisan student loan compromise reached last week that’s been blasted by the left for increasing interest rates on students.

The White House circulated a fact sheet touting the proposal about an hour after McConnell made remarks supporting the plan on the Senate floor. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is scheduled to participate in a conference call with reporters to tout the plan, as part of a full-court press that comes the same day that McConnell’s University of Louisville Cardinals basketball team visits the White House.

“Today, the Obama Administration is calling on Congress to swiftly pass a bipartisan compromise to keep student loan interest rates low this year. The bipartisan compromise, which is similar to a plan proposed by the President in the spring, will cut rates on all new loans this year and save a typical undergraduate $1,500 over the life of those loans,” a White House fact sheet said. “The plan allows borrowers to benefit from the low interest rates currently available in the marketplace and guarantees that borrowers are able to lock in these rates over the life of their loans.”

McConnell noted the odd synergy between his party and the White House on the issue:

“Congressional Republicans and President Obama have actually been more or less on the same page on this issue from the start. We’ve agreed on the need to pursue permanent reform for all students, not just a short-term political fix for some of them. Democrats need to finally allow the bipartisan student loan reform proposal to come to a vote this week, so we can pass it and ensure there’s one less Washington-created problem for young people to worry about in this economy.”

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., were among those blasting the bipartisan package on the floor last week, and Reed plans to offer an alternative amendment.

On Monday, Vermont independent Sen. Bernard Sanders criticized the plan in a statement with the headline “Obama College Loan Bill Hurts Students.”

“At a time when Democrats control the White House and the U.S. Senate, we should not support bad legislation almost identical to that passed by a very conservative, Republican-led House. Our job is to listen to the people who elected us and stand up for working families and their kids, not make their lives more difficult,” Sanders said.

Still, the White House, McConnell and other Republicans seem to have the votes to get through the Senate, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said last week.

“The compromise plan rejects calls to raise student rates to reduce the deficit, while keeping the federal student loan programs on secure footing for the future,” Tuesday’s White House fact sheet said.

Votes could come as early as today.