A bill spon­sored by Mass­a­chu­setts Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren to ease stu­dent loan debt has sad­ly become the lat­est wor­thy piece of leg­is­la­tion to be stalled in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate by the Repub­li­can Par­ty, which might as well offi­cial­ly rename itself the Par­ty of No (because that is its answer to just about every good idea).

Ear­li­er today, Sen­a­tor Har­ry Reid invoked clo­ture on S.2432, the Bank on Stu­dents Emer­gency Loan Refi­nanc­ing Act, which would allow most of the coun­try’s stu­dents to refi­nance into new fed­er­al direct loans at low­er inter­est rates.

Fifty-six Sen­a­tors (not count­ing Reid, who ulti­mate­ly vot­ed against the bill in a par­lia­men­tary maneu­ver that allows him to bring it back up again) vot­ed to pro­ceed with debate on the leg­is­la­tion, includ­ing Repub­li­cans Lisa Murkows­ki of Alas­ka, Bob Cork­er of Ten­nessee, and Susan Collins of Maine.

But the rest of the Repub­li­can cau­cus vot­ed no. The final vote on clo­ture was fifty-six to thir­ty-eight; six sen­a­tors did not vote. Six­ty “aye” votes were need­ed to break the Repub­li­can fil­i­buster. Had Claire McCaskill of Mis­souri been present, the Democ­rats would have had a total of fifty-eight poten­tial aye votes, and would only have need­ed two more Repub­li­cans to go along.

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as fol­lows:

Vot­ing Aye: Democ­rats Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray (WA), Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (OR), Jon Tester and John Walsh (MT), Mark Begich (AK); Repub­li­can Lisa Murkows­ki (AK)

Vot­ing Nay: Repub­li­cans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID)

As usu­al, Ida­ho’s ter­ri­ble two­some were on the wrong side of the vote.

Ahead of the vote in remarks on the floor, Reid cas­ti­gat­ed Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell and his fol­low­ers for refus­ing to sup­port the bill.

I was dis­ap­point­ed to learn that my col­league, the Repub­li­can Leader, does not sup­port this leg­is­la­tion. Not too long ago, he referred to Democ­rats’ pro­pos­als to address stu­dent loan debt as a “fake fight.” For the twen­ty-five mil­lion Amer­i­cans who stand to ben­e­fit from this bill, I assure my friend that there is noth­ing fake about help­ing work­ing fam­i­lies pay off debt and save mon­ey. To the sin­gle moth­er work­ing two jobs just to take care of her fam­i­ly and make her stu­dent loan pay­ments on time, this leg­is­la­tion is very real. Instead, the Repub­li­can Leader has reaf­firmed his com­mit­ment to the sta­tus quo. Why reform today, what he and his par­ty say they’ll reform next year?

On the oth­er hand, Sen­ate Democ­rats are not stand­ing around wait­ing for a new year or a new Con­gress to tack­le the prob­lem of stu­dent loan debt. We are anx­ious to extend a help­ing hand to the more than 40 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who are fight­ing to keep their heads above water. Let’s come to the aid of those indi­vid­u­als strug­gling with stu­dent loan debt, and keep them from sink­ing deep­er into finan­cial quicksand.

Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren, S. 2432’s spon­sor, was more blunt. In an appear­ance on MSNBC, she exco­ri­at­ed the entrenched Ken­tu­cly Republican.

“Mitch McConnell is there for mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires,” War­ren told host Chris Hayes, host of All In. “He is not there for peo­ple who are work­ing hard play­ing by the rules and try­ing to build a future for themselves.”

She then vowed to cam­paign against him in response to a ques­tion from Hayes.

“One way I’m going to start fight­ing back is I’m going to go down to Ken­tucky and I’m going to cam­paign for [Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate nom­i­nee] Ali­son Lun­der­gan Grimes,” War­ren said. “She’s tough, she’s feisty, she endorsed the stu­dent loan bill, said she want­ed to bring down inter­est rates for Kentuckians.”

“I’m going to get out there and try to make this hap­pen for her.”

Grimes slammed McConnell in a state­ment released to the press after the vote.

“Sen­a­tor McConnell’s bla­tant dis­re­gard for the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ken­tuck­ians crushed by stu­dent loan debt is deeply dis­con­cert­ing,” she said.

“This vote against our mid­dle-class fam­i­lies under­scores the fact that my oppo­nent has been in Wash­ing­ton for far too long and just does not get it. I call on the Sen­ate to pass both the leg­is­la­tion to ease stu­dent loan bur­den as well as the bipar­ti­san bill to address prob­lems with­in the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs. Ken­tucky stu­dents and vet­er­ans deserve a cham­pi­on who will fight for them in the U.S. Sen­ate – not stand idly by and ignore the needs of real people.”

Our own Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell went to the Sen­ate floor after the vote on clo­ture to urge the Repub­li­cans to recon­sid­er. Here’s an excerpt from her remarks:

I know some of my col­leagues on the oth­er side of the aisle did­n’t sup­port this leg­is­la­tion, but the Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office projects that the bill would actu­al­ly reduce the deficit by about $14 bil­lion over the next decade. That’s impor­tant because we want to see poli­cies that are going to help our econ­o­my in the short-run, in the long-run, but they have to be fis­cal­ly responsible.

I want to make sure that those crit­ics who say, oh, well if you make the inter­est rate low­er that stu­dents are going to bor­row more money.

I don’t think that stu­dents are look­ing to bor­row more to add to their debt. I don’t think stu­dents that I talked to, who had loans as high as $180,000, want to bor­row more mon­ey just because you are going to reduce the inter­est rate. They want to refi­nance, reduce their oblig­a­tion and get back to study­ing. There’s much more that we need to do to mit­i­gate the costs of high­er edu­ca­tion and I know my col­leagues and I are going to be work­ing on that. But the Bank on Stu­dents Emer­gency Loan Relief Act was a very good step to help stu­dents and to focus them on their careers and their education.

So again, I hope my col­leagues on the oth­er side of the aisle will look again at this issue and get back to it.

We need to make sure that col­lege edu­ca­tion is more afford­able. It’s time for us to extend the same ben­e­fits that we do for busi­ness­es and mort­gages to stu­dents, so that they can refi­nance and that 25 mil­lion stu­dents in Amer­i­ca could refi­nance their stu­dent loans.

So I thank Sen­a­tor War­ren for bring­ing this issue up, and I hope we will get back to it again.

Sen­a­tor Cantwell’s full floor speech can be viewed on YouTube.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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3 replies on “Republicans (predictably) filibuster Elizabeth Warren’s bill to ease student loan debt”

  1. Boo Repub­li­cans! Once again, they have demon­strat­ed that they are a par­ty that only cares about rich old white guys and the mega­cor­po­ra­tions they run, not stu­dents, vet­er­ans, work­ing men and women, immi­grants, small busi­ness own­ers, or peo­ple of color. 

  2. I want­ed to thank repub­li­cans for remind­ing me why I hold your par­ty in such disregard.
    This bill would have eased my finan­cial bur­den con­sid­er­ably. I have had a con­sol­i­da­tion stu­dent loan at 7.5% inter­est for 14 years now, a loan I am not allowed to refi­nance thanks to a law. I have paid 48k in inter­est to the gov­ern­ment on a loan that was only 58k in 1999. I have worked as a pub­lic ser­vant sup­port­ing our mil­i­tary for 14 years. I could nev­er afford to use the ‘approved’ repay­ment plans to qual­i­fy for stu­dent loan for­give­ness so I won’t get my loan for­giv­en even though I qual­i­fy as a pub­lic ser­vant. As a pub­lic ser­vant i have had a 1% cost of liv­ing increase in 5 years, thanks to con­gress. Dur­ing this time the cost of food, hous­ing and ener­gy has sky­rock­et­ed. Add to this the fact the sequester, where you forced me to work part time last sum­mer and cost me anoth­er 3k in income. As a result i have had to take out mon­ey from my mea­ger retire­ment to pay my bills because as a defense employ­ee i am for­bid­den from pay­ing my bills late. You have cost me tens of thou­sands of mon­ey from my retire­ment because of the lost inter­est the mon­ey I took out would have generated.
    Now when I can final­ly have a chance to dig out of this hole and pay off that anchor of a stu­dent loan by reduc­ing my inter­est rate from 7.5% to 2.6%, you block the bill so it is defeat­ed. My stu­dent loan has lim­it­ed my abil­i­ty to save for retire­ment and I am unable to save for my own son’s col­lege. I came from a poor fam­i­ly and had not access to mon­ey for an edu­ca­tion and I had to bor­row or not go at all. I was a a high school dropout, wel­fare sin­gle teen moth­er once, the kind you like to vil­i­fy. I got my GED, worked my way through col­lege full time and went to school full time, with a 3.70 final gpa and a 148 cred­its. I am the suc­cess sto­ry for human deter­mi­na­tion. I was not going to be poor like my par­ents and so I changed my life. I should not have to be held back for the rest of my life with an insane­ly high stu­dent loan inter­est rate that is high­er than my cred­it card inter­est rate! I have proven my worth to soci­ety, I have done what I was told to do and you PUNISH me and suck mon­ey from me to pay for your reduced tax­es on cap­i­tal gains. You make me sick, I am ashamed of you and your ilk for prey­ing on peo­ple like me so you can have anoth­er home in the bay area that’s worth more than my entire life­time earn­ings. I just want you to know that I will NEVER sup­port you or vote for you. I believe in kar­ma and you are sure­ly due for a ‘cor­rec­tion’. Thanks for noth­ing, again.

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