Enzi: Dems holding students ‘hostage’ over loan rate

"I think it's time we quit holding the students of this country hostage one year at a time," Enzi said on the Senate floor. "That's what the bill that just got turned down for, it just kicks the can down the road a year."

His comments came after the upper chamber in a 51-49 vote failed to break a filibuster and proceed with a bill that would have lowered student loan rates from 6.8 percent to 3.4. 

The interest rate for new borrowers of subsidized federal student loans jumped on July 1 after lawmakers failed to reach an accord on extending the lower rates.

The House has passed a bill that ties the borrowing rate to Treasury bonds and has pressed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to adopt their plan. Senate Democrats, though, are divided.

An alternate proposal by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Angus King (I-Maine) would also tie the loan rate to Treasury bonds. Reid opposes the compromise measure, but has said he could reach a deal with language to cap rates at a lower level than currently proposed.

The White House also backs tying loan rates to bonds, but opposes the House GOP bill, claiming it does not allow students to lock in a rate over the course of their loan. The Obama administration instead backs the Senate bill voted down Wednesday, which just extends the 3.4 rate for another year.

Enzi said the one year freeze did little to help most students with new loans.

"Solve it for all of the kids applying for loans this year, not just 40 percent of them. And solve it so they know exactly where the interest rate is going to be at the time they apply and have it stay that way through the whole time they have the loan,” he said.

The Wyoming senator also charged that Reid was delaying a solution on student loans in hopes of using the issue to batter Republicans.

“This isn’t supposed to be a blame game around here. It’s supposed to be about finding some common ground and getting things done,” Enzi said.