U.S. Rep. John Kline took to the steps of the U.S. Capitol to slam Senate Democrats for failing to pass legislation that would have prevented rates on some student loans from rising last week.
The interest rate charged on federally subsidized student loans doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, days after Congress adjourned for its July 4th holiday recess.
As lawmakers returned to Washington today, Kline -- along with House Speaker John Boehner and several other House GOP members -- urged Democrats to act quickly to resolve the issue. As they spoke Monday, dozens of college students lined the Capitol steps behind them.
"It is time for Senate Democrats to step up, take action, get a long-term solution and give these students the surety and the relief that they need," Kline said.
Congress still has time to retroactively prevent the rates from doubling because most students won't sign papers for the new loans until the fall semester starts.
How Republicans and Democrats will find common ground remains unclear.
House Republicans approved a bill in late May that would set interest rates on federal student loans based on the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percent. The rate would be variable and would reset each year, but the GOP legislation would cap the rate at 8.5 percent. The White House threatened to veto the House plan.
Democrats argue that the plan is worse than doing nothing since the rates would rise higher than 6.8 percent.
Senate Democrats have tried to pass bill in the upper chamber, but Republicans have blocked their efforts by requiring the 60-vote filibuster threshold
Before the July 4th break, several senators introduced a bipartisan bill akin to the House plan, but it has yet to come up for a vote.
The Senate is expected to take up the student loan issue again this week with a vote to extend the fixed 3.4 percent rate for another year.
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The defeat of a student loan bill in the Senate on Wednesday clears the way for fresh negotiations to restore lower rates, but lawmakers are racing the clock before millions of students return to campus next month to find borrowing terms twice as high as when school let out.