By Joyce Jones
Fresh from their Fourth of July recess, congressional lawmakers wasted no time picking up where they left off in the blame game on who's responsible for inaction on federal student loan interest rates.
House Republicans brought props to a press conference on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday evening. Flanked by rows of students, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders accused the White House and Senate Democrats of not doing their job.
"[They] have let these students down. And frankly, I think they deserve better. It's time for the president to lead; it's time for him to bring Senate Democrat leaders together and develop a solution. The House has done its job," Boehner said.
The interest rate on federal student loans doubled last week from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The House in a party-line vote passed a bill that ties the rates to Treasury notes, plus 2.5 percent. In addition, the rate would fluctuate with the stock market throughout the life of a loan, which Democrats strongly oppose because, they say, students would pay even higher rates.
"The House legislation is worse for students than doing nothing at all," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).
The Senate is set to take up a bill on Wednesday that would extend the 3.4 percent rate for another year. And while there are still a few weeks left before students finalize their loans for the upcoming academic year, the pressure is on.
Rep. Karen Bass (D-California), who has been very vocal on the issue, criticized Republicans for holding the press conference instead of focusing on a workable solution.
"America's students deserve better than another costly Republican-manufactured crisis," she said. "With record high student loan debt, it's time to put aside partisan politics and find a long term solution that permanently keeps student loan interest rates low and makes college more affordable for everyone."