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MS. AYOTTE. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about an issue we are all very concerned about, particularly in my home State of New Hampshire; that is, the rising student loan rates. In fact, one study that looked at it for the class of 2011 found that for New Hampshire, the average load of debt for the class of 2011 was $32,000--over $32,000.
Like the Senator from Florida, I have experienced it personally as well. I would not have been able to get a law degree or to have the education that I have without the ability to take out student loans--and only paid them off, fortunately, right as we had our first child. So this was something that--basically, I used to call it ``I had a mortgage to pay'' to pay off my student loans. But I was grateful for the opportunity to get those loans and get the education that I was able to receive. We want to make sure all students are able to pursue higher education in the most affordable way possible.
Here is where we are today. This is such a complete, typical Washington deal. We just voted on a proposal on the floor, and that proposal is a 1-year fix. It only applies to 40 percent of student loans. We would be back again next year--like Groundhog Day--trying to fix this problem again. It is a complete Washington deal in this way.
There actually has been a bipartisan proposal that has Members of both parties coming together. What happened is we saw that the President put forward a proposal as to how to deal with the increase in rates on July 1. The House Republicans had a proposal on how to deal with those rates. I was with Secretary Duncan at a hearing, and I asked him about that, and he said: They are not too far apart. Can't we come together? There was an opportunity for compromise.
As a result, a group of Senators got together here. I commend Senator Manchin, Senator Alexander, Senator Burr, Senator Carper, Senator Coburn, and Senator King. They sat down and came up with a permanent solution to try to make sure student loan rates would not rise from where they are right now. This solution, of course, would decrease the rates for almost every student and put a cap on consolidated loans and also, most importantly, is not a 1-year fix so that we are back here again like Groundhog Day putting students and parents in a very difficult situation, not knowing how to plan, and educational institutions--everyone in the tough situation of not knowing what is going to happen and thinking that they are facing a dramatic increase in student loan rates.
I think the American people are very tired of what happens here and the gamesmanship played in Washington. Here is the unfortunate thing. We had the vote on the 1-year fix.
By the way, I thought the Washington Post addressed that 1-year fix very well this morning in its editorial in which it said that lawmakers should ``reject this pathetic non-solution and put their efforts instead into finalizing a compromise plan.''
There was a compromise plan that Senators from both sides of the aisle have worked on. I am a proud cosponsor of that plan. Yet we are not being offered a vote on that plan. That is why I say this is a typical Washington deal.
I can understand why the American people would be so frustrated that a bipartisan proposal that would prevent the loan rates from doubling would not receive a vote on the floor of the Senate. It is a proposal where Senators from both sides of the aisle have tried to take what the President wanted and to take what was done by the House Republicans and come up with a very reasonable agreement that is a solution that does not just leave us here in the same position next year. It doesn't just address 40 percent of student loans. It addresses all student loans and puts us in a situation where we would have a solution that would be bipartisan and would give students certainty. It would make sure their rates do not double as they did on July 1. Yet it does not even receive a vote on the floor of the Senate. That is what is wrong with Washington.
I hope the majority leader will reconsider. He may not like the proposal. I understand. But to not give it a vote on the floor of the Senate, where it has bipartisan support, is absolutely wrong. It deserves a vote. It deserves a thoughtful vote given that it has bipartisan support and it is very close to the proposal that was put forward by the President of the United States.
I hope that we will end the gamesmanship on this important issue, that we can address it, that bipartisan proposals like the one I just talked about will get a vote on the floor of the Senate, and that we will resolve this issue on behalf of students and parents as well, for whom I know this is causing a lot of unnecessary consternation. To not give a proposal that has bipartisan support a vote, at a minimum, seems to me just wrong. It is what is wrong with Washington. I hope the majority leader will at least give it the vote it deserves. I hope we can come to an agreement on this important issue.
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