If Congress doesn’t act by July, interest rates on student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.


The Senate is expected to vote on a bill introduced by Sens. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless MORE (D-R.I.) and Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate Wisconsin lawmaker refuses to cut hair until sign-language bill passes MORE (D-Iowa). The Student Loan Affordability Act, S. 953, would freeze need-based student loan interest rates for two years while Congress works on a long-term solution. Reed said lawmakers need the extra time because Congress is not set to consider the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Reed and Harkin's bill is fully paid for over 10 years by closing three tax loopholes. Specifically, it would limit the use of tax-deferred retirement accounts, close a corporate offshore tax loophole by restricting “earnings stripping” by expatriated entities, and close an oil and gas industry tax loophole by treating oil from tar sands the same as other petroleum products.

Last week the House passed the Smarter Solutions for Students Act. Under that bill federal student loan rates would equal the rate on the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percent. The rate would be variable, and would reset each year, although students could package all their loans into a fixed-rate loan after graduation. The GOP bill also caps the rate at 8.5 percent for most students.

GOP lawmakers have said Democrats should agree to their bill because President Obama had a similar proposal in his 2014 budget. But Reid has said the House bill wouldn’t pass the Senate because it would potentially be worse for students than doing nothing.

“The House Republican proposal is a non-starter in the Senate because it would leave middle-class families with the uncertainty of seeing their rates fluctuate wildly year to year, potentially having to pay thousands more from one year to the next,” Reid said Friday. “The House Republican plan would cost students an average of almost $2,000 more in interest than if we did nothing at all — or about $6,500 more in interest than the current rate.”

Also on Friday, President Obama called on Congress to pass a student loan bill.