Two days after President Obama signed an executive order easing federal student loan debt – and tried to pressure the Senate into moving forward on a similar bill sponsored by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat – the Senate voted to sidetrack the bill indefinitely.
After a heated debate, during which Republicans accused Warren of playing politics with the issue, the Senate voted 56-38 on a procedural issue to hold up the bill.
But the declaration that Warren, a rising star among progressives, is using student debt for self-promotion rings hollow: the freshman senator built her career on consumer advocacy, including helping Obama create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from scratch.
Independent studies have shown student loan debt – which often can reach six figures – chews up large portions of a young earner’s income, stifling upward mobility for first-generation college graduates. Economists have also cited it as a significant drag on the recovering but still fragile American economy.
More facts: Since the 1980s, the average tuition at a public four-year college has more than tripled, but family incomes are stagnant, according to the White House. More students than ever are relying on loans to pay for college: 71 percent of undergraduates leave school an average of $29,400 in debt, starting their careers with payments that swallows as much as a rent or mortgage payment.
In signing the executive order Monday, Obama called out Republicans for their opposition on the issue – and most of the other items on his agenda designed to help the middle class.
Watch their reaction to his order – which caps federal student loan repayments at 10 percent of a borrower’s income – and check their record, he said. You’ll see another example of how the GOP will bend over backwards for corporations and the rich, he added, but they’ll turn a deaf ear to those who need their help.
“If you’re a big oil company they’ll go to bat for you,” the president said. “If you’re a student, good luck.”
Arguing for her bill, Warren tried the same tack against her critics – including those who accuse the bill of not doing enough to help reduce the overall cost of a college education. The bill is a first step to help struggling students, she said, but not a cure-all.
“With this vote, we show the American people who we work for in the United States Senate: billionaires or students,” Warren said.
This is a video of Senator Warren’s floor speech when she first announced the bill in early May: