Courtney, other Connecticut Democrats, slam GOP on student loan vote

Washington — Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, has for months been trying to win approval for a bill that would avoid a doubling of the interest rate on a popular, federally subsidized student loan.

But when the House finally approved legislation Friday that would prevent interest rates on Stafford loans from doubling to 6.8 percent on July 1, Courtney was furious.

That’s because the student loan bill crafted by House Republicans would keep interest rates low for another year — at a cost of nearly $6 billion — by killing a piece of the 2010 health care law.

“Sadly, after stonewalling on this issue for three months, the House Republican leadership filed a bill with no consultation, which will be dead on arrival at the White House and thus cannot be regarded as a serious fix,” said Courtney in a statement.

“The vote on this measure is a charade.”

The student loans bill was indeed DOA at the White House, which swiftly issued a veto threat of the legislation.

The White House, and congressional Democrats, say the GOP’s plan would gut a preventive health care fund that benefits mostly women. They prefer to fund the bill through taxing some of the income earned from S-corporations, which don’t pay corporate taxes.

Republicans say the health care money they would use to keep interest rates low is contained in a loosely controlled slush fund.

The student loan bill was approved on a 215-195 vote that split largely along party lines. None of Connecticut’s House members — all Democrats — supported the bill.

“(Republicans) demand that we choose between education and health care. The hypocrisy is staggering,” said Rep. John Larson, D-1st District. “House Democrats will continue to fight for student loan fairness, but we reject this false choice.”

On the House floor, Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District, said he felt the pain of college students who would be forced to pay thousands of dollars more to eliminate their debt because he and his wife are still paying off student loans.

“The question before the House today was whether we were going to take money for preventative services for women and children and give it to college students. That’s a really dumb question,” Murphy said.

If triggered, the higher rates on Stafford loans would affect about 7.4 million undergraduates who are expected to borrow money in the 12 months after July 1.

The fight over the Stafford loan now goes to the Senate, which is likely to approve a bill Democrats like.