WASHINGTON - Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Thursday urged colleagues to work in a bipartisan way to prevent federally subsidized student loan rates to double on July 1.
The Senate on Thursday failed to move forward two separate partisan bills intended to prevent the interest rate hike of from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Sixty votes were needed to end debate and neither obtained the required number.
The Democrat version to extend the existing rates, Senate Bill 953, failed 51-46 while the Republican-backed bill, SB 1003, failed 40 to 57. Manchin voted no and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., voted yes no 953. Both West Virginia senators voted no on 1003.
"We have to work together to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling because every dollar counts," Manchin said.
A long-term solution is needed, he said.
"It's only common sense to keep higher education affordable so that we can train our students for the jobs of the future and can effectively compete around the world," Manchin said.
Manchin was joined by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, in encouraging senators to work in a bipartisan manner on a student loan reform package.
"Congress will be doing America's students a serious disservice if we allow the interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans to double at the end of this month - but we will be doing tomorrow's students an even greater injustice if we don't figure out a long-term solution," King said.
The Democrat proposal doesn't address the need for a long-term solution and fails to address the interest rates for all of the federal student loan programs, King said. The Republican proposal is long-term, but doesn't protect low-income students and puts all savings into deficit reduction rather than helping existing loan programs, he said.
Student loan debt exceeds $1 trillion, second only to mortgage debt for American families. An average student graduates with more than $26,000 in student loans.
A bill that passed the House of Representatives last month was unacceptable in the Democrat-controlled Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said. The Republicans claim the House bill was similar to a proposal from President Obama, however, Obama said he would veto the House version if its passes.