A closer look at next week ... Senate debates student loan rate fixes

Most Democrats support a bill from Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) that would extend the rate of 3.4 percent for one year and is paid for by ending a tax break on tax-deferred retirement accounts — the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act, S. 1238.

ADVERTISEMENT
But a bipartisan group made up of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced a permanent solution similar to something the House passed last month. The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, S. 1241, would set all newly issued student loans to the U.S. Treasury 10-year borrowing rate plus 1.85 percent for undergraduate Stafford loans. The interest rate would be fixed over the life of the loan with a capped maximum loan rate of 8.25 percent.

Some Democrats argue that the bipartisan Senate bill and House Republican bill are worse than doing nothing because the maximum loan rate would be higher than 6.8 percent.

Reed has said a permanent solution would take more deliberation and should be done in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The Senate could also begin work on appropriations bills, and some judicial nominations are expected to get votes.

In addition, former Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will be sworn in early next week. Markey will be the permanent replacement to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry.

The House will consider three suspension bills dealing with derivatives, securities and veterans. Work will also start in the House Rules Committee on two bills that could reach the floor later in the week.

The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, H.R. 761, would require the administration to more efficiently develop domestic sources of minerals important to U.S. economic and national security, such as rare-earth elements used in cellphones and other technologies.

The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, H.R. 2609, provides annual funding for national defense nuclear weapons activities, the Army Corps of Engineers and various programs under the Department of Energy for fiscal 2014. The $30.4 billion bill cuts $2.9 billion from the previous year — $4.1 billion below President Obama’s budget request and $700 million below the sequestration level.

Below is a more detailed look at the week ahead:

Monday

The Senate starts at 2 p.m., and at 5:30 p.m. will hold a vote on the nomination of Gregory Phillips to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit.

The Senate is then expected to debate the two student loan bills and possibly negotiate a compromise if neither passes.

The House also meets at 2 p.m. and will consider up to three suspension bills. Any needed roll call votes on these bills will be held at 6:30 p.m.

H.R. 1341, the Financial Competitive Act, which would direct the Financial Stability Oversight Council to study and report to Congress on the likely financial effects of differences between the United States and other countries on capital requirements in the derivatives markets.

H.R. 1564, the Audit Integrity and Job Protection, prohibiting the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board from requiring the automatic rotation of a public company's independent external auditor.

H.R. 1171, the FOR VETS Act, which would authorize the transfer of federal surplus property to a state agency for donations to veterans’ organizations.

Tuesday-Wednesday

The House meets at 10 a.m. on both days and could begin amendment work on the appropriations bill for energy and water projects and a bill to streamline mining permits.

H.R. 2609, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which would provide annual funding for national defense nuclear weapons activities, the Army Corps of Engineers and various programs under the Department of Energy for fiscal 2014.

H.R. 761, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, which would streamline development of minerals important to U.S. economic and national security, such as rare-earth elements used in cellphones and other technologies.

The Senate is in session, and will likely continue work on student loan bills throughout the week. Other votes on judicial nominees are possible throughout the week.

Thursday

The House meets at 9 a.m., and votes on final passage of the appropriations bill and mining bill are possible. 

Friday

Neither the House nor Senate are likely to be in session.