If there is one thing I have learned from reading and writing about politics and political campaigns, it is that one can never predict what issue may become a hot topic for a particular campaign. Such is the case of the debate over student loan interest rates. From out of the blue, it seems to have raised its head as one of the important issues of the 2012 elections. This is true for both the presidential and congressional elections. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the fact that college students are a prime target for fresh votes for a political campaign. Here on Political Realities, I strive to be objective and to write about the realities that are inherent in all things political. This is one of those times when those realities are coming to a head, right before one of the most important elections this country has ever conducted.
At issue is not whether student loan interest rates will double. They will do so, if an extension to a bill already in place isn’t passed. Student loan interest rates are artificially low because of this legislation, put into place by the Democratic leadership in Congress in 2007. As it is with too much of the legislation passed through Congress, this has an expiration date built into the bill. So now, both political parties are scrambling, trying to one up each other and claim credit for keeping student loan interest rates low.
President Obama has been traveling around the country, visiting college campuses, and making sure the students know he is on their side. It should be noted, however, that Senator Barack Obama couldn’t be bothered to leave the campaign trail and cast his vote when this first came through Congress in 2007. It seems to have gained some importance for him since then. I wonder why?
So, if everyone agrees that student loan interest rates need to be kept low, what’s the problem? It’s pretty simple, actually. The real issue that has brought this issue to the front of the campaign is how it will be paid for. Ah, now we know the rest of the story. It’s all about the money and where it will come from. I’ll let Jamie Dupree take it from here.
Both parties are for the same thing – not letting those interest rates double; but how they pay for it – and how they get there is a reminder of our current political deadlock.
Democrats want to strip tax breaks away from the oil and gas industry, something Republicans have repeatedly rejected during President Obama’s time in office.
“They’re priority is to protect subsidies for Big Oil,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The Republican response was straight out of their political playbook – go after the Obama health law.
“We will pay for this by taking money for this from one of the slush funds in the president’s health care law,” said Speaker John Boehner.
And so, the two parties are locked in their corners on a $6 billion measure to deal with the student loan interest rate increase – those rates would double in July.
As with anything, it is important for us to look at the history of a particular issue. We have already revisited the fact that the Democrats are the ones responsible for setting this July deadline. But wait, there’s more. What about the slush fund John Boehner mentioned? As it turns out, the money to extend the low student loan interest rates was supposed to be available, but it was diverted for other projects. Here are some of the details, from Fox News.
The GOP’s Student Interest Rate Reduction Act would take some of the estimated $9 billion Democrats diverted from college financial aid funding in 2010 to pay for the president’s health care law and apply the money as a stopgap measure to prevent the rate increase.
The money, more specifically, created the Prevention and Public Health Fund for prevention, wellness and public-health activities. It is administered by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who has full discretion on how to spend the money.