House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) office is pushing back on reports that he told his conference on Thursday morning that he doesn’t expect Congress to avert a student loan interest rate hike in July.
“The Speaker told the members that the president wants to fabricate fights on things like student loans because he’s out of ideas; he doesn’t want to talk about his record or his failed policies. Told them the House has passed a responsible bill, and that we are waiting on Senate Democrats,” Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel told TPM after Democrats pounced. “But that if the interest rate lapses because of the Democrats’ inaction we can fix it retroactively. He also reiterated what he’s said before … that if there’s a solution that can pass both chambers, we’re ready to talk about it.”
The pushback came in response to reports citing anonymous sources — from Politico and CNN — that Boehner privately told House Republicans that it was a “phony” fight and warned them that it was unlikely Congress would be able to prevent Stafford loan interest rates from doubling.
The reports prompted a retort from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“These overheard comments by Speaker Boehner confirm our suspicions that Republicans were never serious about wanting to stop rates from doubling on college students,” Schumer said in a statement. “To many on the hard right, government should not play a role in helping students afford college. Speaker Boehner seems to be following their lead and throwing in the towel on this issue a month before the deadline. It seems he would rather let costs rise on middle-class families than work across the aisle to find a bipartisan solution. In the Senate, we are going to persist in finding a compromise.”
Democrats and Republicans are at a deadlock on how to pay for the $6 billion cost of a one-year freeze. If no action is taken, interest rates will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on some 7 million students in July.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.