U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the need for Senate Democrats to put politics aside and work on a long-term fix to prevent an increase in student loan interest rates:
"Earlier this week, I came to the floor and asked Senate Democrats to work with us on permanent student loan reform. This is an issue ripe for bipartisan cooperation.
"Both the President and Republicans want to prevent rates from going up in July. 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.
"Instead, Senate Democrats put forward a bill that fails the very benchmarks the President set himself -- a bill that's nothing more than a short-term political patch funded by permanent tax hikes; a bill that would cost taxpayers more than $8 billion, yet only save students about $6 per month.
"Worse still, it's a bill Democrats know will fail. In fact, they actually seem to be indicating they want it to fail. Why? Undoubtedly so they can keep this issue alive for their permanent campaign.
"Top Senate Democrats have stated themselves that they're "not looking for compromise,' and that they're determined to show "the difference between the two parties on a key issue' -- even where there really isn't one.
"Two of the most senior Senate Democrats said those things. So basically, they're determined to force a partisan fight here, regardless of the cost to students. And the way they've set up this morning's votes -- well, it's clear those votes are intentionally designed to fail.
"So, when Senate Democrats get their wish and their bill fails this evening, I hope the President will step in to work with us on a serious, permanent solution -- because, as I said, our ideas for reform are not all that different from his on this issue. And students should not be made to suffer just because some in this town seem to see them as rooks and pawns in a political chess match.
"Look: this isn't a fight young Americans need, especially now. Young men and women are already having a rough enough go of it in the Obama Economy.
"Those who make it through college face a highly uncertain future once they get out there in the "real world,' as their parents like to call it. They're having a real tough time finding a job. And once Obamacare comes online, experts predict that their health-care premiums are set to skyrocket. Young men in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties could see rate increases of 50 percent or more, depending on which study you look at.
"But here's the thing: even if premiums end up going up by just a small fraction of that amount, it's still going to create an enormous headache for the next generation. And while the Administration's allies promise subsidies, studies indicate that those payments from taxpayers might not make up for the higher costs.
"Look: Many young folks seem to be largely living paycheck to paycheck these days, often because they have no other choice. These men and women are just getting by as it is. Do we really expect these Americans to be able to afford to pay even more?
"Well, apparently Washington Democrats do. Because if young folks don't cough up money for health insurance, they're going to get hit with a penalty tax. So, one way or the other, many are going to start paying more.
"That's just one more reason why Senate Democrats need to get serious on the student loan issue.
"This summer alone, more than 9 million college students will take out nearly $7,000 worth of loans -- and about $25,000 in total by the time they earn their degrees. That's a smart investment, but it's also a lot of money.
"We owe them certainty and stability, and permanent reform along the lines Republicans and President Obama have called for will do that. So it's time for Democrats in Washington to put the campaigning aside and work with us to enact just that type of reform.
"Now, on another matter, I'd still like to confirm with my friend the Majority Leader that he intends to uphold the commitment that he has now twice made, and that is the commitment that he will not break the Rules of the Senate in order to change the Rules of the Senate.
"Specifically, both at the beginning of last Congress, and at the beginning of this Congress, he committed to the Senate and to the American people that he would not use what is referred to as the "nuclear option.' These were clear commitments. They were not contingent commitments or commitments with caveats.
"The chart behind me has both of these commitments. I'd like to read them again. So I ask my friend the Majority Leader, do you intend to keep your commitments not to break the Rules of the Senate in order to change the Rules of the Senate?
"I'll keep coming back to bring up this issue until we finally get an assurance that we're not going to turn around and break our word a few months after we gave it, especially on a matter that goes to the essence of the Senate."