Reid says student loan votes will fail

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday predicted that two versions of legislation to keep student loan interest rates low for another year would fail in votes later today.

"I'm certainly aware of how things work around here. Neither one of these things are going to pass, sorry to say," Reid said on the floor. "These two proposals were not created equal, but I hope a few reasonable Republicans will join with us to not put Americans' health at risk."

Reid's comments reflected the harsh reality of today's votes on a GOP and a Democratic proposal to keep the interest rates on new, federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for another year, rather than let that rate double in July.

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The Senate Republican version is the same as a House-passed bill that would eliminate a preventive healthcare fund created as part of the 2010 healthcare law. Republicans favor killing off that fund, which they call a "slush fund," to pay for the roughly $6 billion cost of the loan rate extension.

Democrats continue to reject this proposal, and Reid on Thursday reiterated his party's opposition.

"It would be a shame to use that pay-for," he said. "That program has already been stripped bare. To take any more from it would really hurt the health of America."

In contrast, the Senate Democratic version subjects more high-income earners' paychecks to the payroll tax, which would pay for the loan rate extension after 10 years.

Because both versions will require 60 votes, both were expected to fail. Still, Reid said he is optimistic that the Senate would find some way to resolve the impasse sometime before the rate is scheduled to jump on July 1. He said an agreement to pass a Food and Drug Administration bill today "renewed my hope that Congress will reach an agreement to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling for 7 million young men and women."

"The week's been productive, and … we have not had to break or try to break a single Republican filibuster. That is a good day in Washington," Reid added. "It doesn't happen very often — hope it happens more often.

"If this trend continues, we could return to the way we used to be, that is, to do things that were good for the country and not be trying to stop everything that comes along."

But at the same time, Reid indicated that he would set up what could be another bipartisan fight over a bill aimed at ensuring that women receive equal pay. Reid said the Senate would soon take up the Paycheck Fairness Act, S. 797.

"Republicans deny they're waging a war on women, yet they've launched a series of attacks on women's access to healthcare and contraception this year," Reid said. "Now they have an opportunity to back up their excuses with action, and we're going to give them that opportunity."