Democrats Are Trying a New Tactic on Student Loans: It’s a Women’s Issue

A new Senate bill from Elizabeth Warren is expected to come up next week. And Republicans are expected to shoot it down.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and other Democratic sentaors hold a news conference to announce their support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 at the U.S. Capitol January 30, 2014 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
June 5, 2014, 1 a.m.

First, it was a min­im­um-wage in­crease. Next, the Paycheck Fair­ness Act. And now, Demo­crats are pitch­ing a bill to ad­dress stu­dent-loan debt as a wo­men’s is­sue.

Next week, the Sen­ate will con­sider a bill from Demo­crat­ic Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren that would let Amer­ic­ans with out­stand­ing fed­er­al and private stu­dent loans re­fin­ance them at the same rates stu­dents re­ceive when tak­ing out new fed­er­al loans.

Stu­dents tak­ing out new Stafford stu­dent loans pay 3.86 per­cent on un­der­gradu­ate and 5.41 per­cent on gradu­ate loans. The War­ren bill would let people with pub­lic and private loans re­fin­ance their in­terest rates at those levels.

The bill is the latest in a series of le­gis­lat­ive pushes by Sen­ate Demo­crats in­ten­ded to rile up their base ahead of this year’s midterm elec­tions. On Wed­nes­day, a cadre of fe­male Demo­crat­ic sen­at­ors high­lighted the prob­lem of stu­dent-loan debt as an is­sue of par­tic­u­lar im­port­ance to wo­men, who en­roll in col­lege at high­er rates than men do. They also ar­gue that wo­men, after gradu­at­ing, earn less than their male coun­ter­parts.

“It’s a one-two punch,” War­ren said. “Wo­men take on big debts to go to col­lege but they have less money to pay off those debts.”

And just as with the min­im­um-wage boost and equal-pay bill, few Re­pub­lic­ans will be back­ing this pro­pos­al, mak­ing it likely headed for fail­ure in the Sen­ate.

Why isn’t there GOP sup­port? For one, the bill would be paid for through the so-called Buf­fett Rule, which would change the long-term cap­it­al gains tax to en­sure mil­lion­aires are taxed at at least 30 per­cent. And rais­ing taxes is a non­starter for Re­pub­lic­ans. (Demo­crats say they are open to al­tern­at­ive pay-fors.)

The Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice es­tim­ates the pro­pos­al would re­duce the de­fi­cit by about $22 bil­lion over 10 years. That’s be­cause the new pro­gram would cost $51 bil­lion in dir­ect spend­ing over that peri­od while the Buf­fett Rule would raise rev­en­ues by $72 bil­lion.

But it’s not just the way Demo­crats pro­pose to pay for the le­gis­la­tion that has Re­pub­lic­ans roiled. Re­pub­lic­ans will likely ar­gue that the pro­pos­al wouldn’t be­ne­fit new or ex­ist­ing stu­dents, just those with ex­ist­ing debt.

The Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee has spent this year work­ing on a reau­thor­iz­a­tion of the High­er Edu­ca­tion Act, a massive law that deals with fed­er­al stu­dent aid. Rank­ing mem­ber Lamar Al­ex­an­der said this par­tic­u­lar pro­pos­al should be con­sidered in that con­text.

“We’re go­ing to take three days out next week for a polit­ic­al stunt that every­body knows hasn’t been con­sidered by the com­mit­tee and won’t pass the Sen­ate,” Al­ex­an­der said.

He ad­ded that he’s ex­amin­ing pos­sible GOP coun­ter­pro­pos­als to bring up dur­ing the de­bate next week.

Still, Demo­crats are bank­ing on pub­lic sup­port for their policy pitch. Stu­dent-loan debt has already sur­passed cred­it-card debt in the U.S., adding up to $1 tril­lion. And a re­cord-high 37 per­cent of house­holds headed by someone young­er than 40 has stu­dent-loan debt, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter.

“Re­pub­lic­ans would at their per­il stop this bill from mov­ing for­ward,” says Sen. Patty Mur­ray, D-Wash. “We are hear­ing an over­whelm­ingly pos­it­ive re­sponse across the in­come levels, across the age levels, across our states about how im­port­ant this le­gis­la­tion is.”

What We're Following See More »
JOINS BUSHES, MCCAIN
Romney to Skip Convention
20 minutes ago
THE LATEST

An aide to Mitt Romney confirmed to the Washington Post that the 2102 GOP nominee will not attend the Republican convention this year. He joins the two living Republican presidents, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as 2008 nominee John McCain in skipping the event. Even among living Republican nominees, that leaves only Bob Dole who could conceivably show up. Dole did say in January that he'd prefer Trump to Ted Cruz, but his age (92) could keep him from attending.

Source:
CALIFORNIA MAKES IT 21
FDA to Ban All Tobacco Sales to Minors
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a long-awaiting new rule, the Food and Drug Administration will ban sale of all tobacco products—including e-cigarettes—to those under 18. The rule takes effect in 90 days. It's part of a larger package of regulations that "gives FDA authority to regulate—but not to ban—all tobacco products, from e-cigarettes to cigars and hookahs." Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill on Wednesday that would bump the legal age to buy all tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Source:
#NEVERTRUMP
Sen. Sasse Calls for a Third Candidate
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Sen. Ben Sasse, the most prominent elected official to declare that he's #NeverTrump, wrote an open letter on Facebook to the "majority of Americans who wonder why the nation that put a man on the moon can’t find a healthy leader who can take us forward together." Calling to mind recent conversations at a Fremont, Neb., Walmart, the senator pitted the presumptive general election battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as such a "terrible choice" that there would be an appetite for another candidate to emerge. In a parenthetical aside to reporters, Sasse ruled himself out. "Such a leader should be able to campaign 24/7 for the next six months," he wrote. "Therefore he/she likely can’t be an engaged parent with little kids." Meanwhile, his colleague Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted in a private recording obtained by Politico that Trump hurts his reelection chances.

Source:
UTAH REPUBLICAN
Former Sen. Bob Bennett Dies at 82
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Former Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Bennett was defeated in a primary in 2010 by Tea Party–backed Mike Lee.

Source:
CLINTON HERSELF COULD TESTIFY LATER
Judge Approves Deposition of Clinton Aides
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, approved a joint proposal presented by Judicial Watch and the State Department to take the depositions of officials" involved in the setup and use of Hillary Clinton's private email server, "including Cheryl D. Mills, Clinton's former chief of staff, Huma Abedin, a senior adviser to Clinton, and Bryan Pagliano, a State Department employee who serviced and maintained the server." He said Clinton could be deposed later on, though that may not be necessary.

Source:
×