On Wednesday, a bill intending to provide financial relief to future borrowers, as well as past students, earned a majority vote in the senate, but fell victim to yet another filibuster in the legislative process. The bill, put forward by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), garnered 56 votes in favor to just 38 votes against, but fell 4 votes shy of the 60 needed to avoid a filibuster.
The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act would have allowed students to borrow government loans at an interest rate of 3.86 percent. New borrowers weren’t the only beneficiaries, as the bill would have also provided relief to students that borrowed money before 2007. The refinancing of loans could have lowered debt and afforded recent college graduates an opportunity to free up more money to spend on other things, perhaps giving a boost to the economy.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) emerged as the main opponent of the bill in the senate. McConnell stated that the bill would do nothing to actually lower the price of college tuition, which is something neither party has particularly centered on. He also criticized the method in which Warren planned to pay for the government’s lost revenue, an increase in taxes for those making over $1 million per year.
The opposition’s statistics argued that the bill would cost the government $51 billion over the next decade. But Warren argued that the new tax - Buffet Rule - would actually provide $72 billion in revenue over the same period. As usual, the bill became grounds for a partisan divide, allowing Democrats an opportunity to accuse Republicans of enabling massive student loan debt and siding with millionaires, and Republicans accusing Democrats of spending money the government doesn’t have and political posturing.
Despite the partisan atmosphere, three Republicans did vote to advance the bill, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.
Senator Warren vowed to continue working on the issue of student loans at a press conference following the vote, “We’re not giving up. Homeowners are refinancing. Small businesses are refinancing. We just want young people who got an education to have their shot.”
President Obama came out in favor of the measure in a speech earlier in the week, but Republicans dismissed the effort as simply trying to garner votes in a midterm election year. Younger voters tend to vote Democratic, yet their turnout usually subsides when there isn’t a presidential election.
While both political parties maneuver on issues, the student loan debt in America continues to rise. Student loan debt surpassed $1.2 trillion, more than credit card debt, preventing recent graduates from buying homes, cars, or having flexibility in careers after college.