With loan rates set to rise in 10 days for more than 7 million students, President Obama took to the bully pulpit again Thursday to blame congressional Republicans for inaction.
“We’ve been stuck watching Congress play ‘chicken’ with another deadline,” Mr. Obama said at the White House as he surrounded himself with students. “There’s still 10 days for Congress to do the right thing.”
Republicans, meanwhile, accused the White House of ignoring their repeated attempts over the past three weeks to offer solutions to the stalemate.
“We proposed multiple good-faith solutions to this problem before it’s too late,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “And we have been waiting ever since for the president’s response. He’s missing in action. He has yet to offer a concrete solution.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration has been working “broadly” with lawmakers but, pressed by reporters to name any Republicans with whom the administration has been in contact, he declined.
“We have made every effort to resolve this matter,” Mr. Carney said. “I can guarantee you that this is being worked at by this administration with Congress. I just don’t have names for you.”
Interest rates on federal Stafford student loans are scheduled to double on July 1 if Congress takes no action. The White House said the rate hike would cost the average student about $1,000 in additional interest payments.
Mr. Obama has visited several major college campuses in recent weeks to rally students, leading Republicans to accuse the president of exploiting the issue to fire up an important segment of his reelection campaign.
The president said Thursday that Congress has largely ignored his entreaties.
“If this warning sounds familiar, we’ve been talking about this for months,” Mr. Obama said. “This issue didn’t come out of nowhere. It should’ve gotten done weeks ago.”
Mr. McConnell and House Republican leaders offered several proposals three weeks ago to pay for the estimated $6 billion cost of subsidizing the loans. GOP lawmakers complain they’ve heard nothing from the White House since then.
The president said he understands lawmakers in both parties are working on a solution, “but they haven’t done it yet, and we’ve got to keep the pressure on.”
Mr. Obama even repeated the debunked claim that House Republicans want to pay for student loans by cutting funding for women’s health care programs. The House did pass a student-loan bill that would take money from a preventative health care fund, but it wasn’t set up specifically for women’s health care, and the White House has proposed cutting the same program.
Senate Majority Leader Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Thursday that Congress is “not there yet,” but he believes there’s still a chance to reach an agreement before the deadline. He said discussions over the past two days have been productive.