Senate Republican blocks student loan extension

A top Senate Republican blocked an effort to extend a student loan program for needy students on Wednesday, just hours before the program expired. 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Congress must move forward on measure dealing with fentanyl GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the committee overseeing education policy, objected to a Democratic attempt to extend the Perkins Loan Program without a floor vote. 

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Alexander has sought to consolidate the various student loan programs as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinDems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid Why does the bankruptcy code discriminate against disabled veterans? MORE (D-Wis.), who sought to extend the program on the Senate floor, sharply criticized Alexander's decision.

"One of the things I hear the most from my constituents is their frustration that Congress isn’t doing enough to make higher education more affordable and accessible," Baldwin said. 

"And yet today, the fact that we just saw one Senator stand up and reject a bipartisan and common-sense measure to do just that is, frankly, a perfect example of why the American people are so upset with Washington."

The House passed an extension of the Perkins program on Monday by voice vote. When the program lapses, colleges would be unable to issue new Perkins loans. Students who got loans before June 30 can still receive aid.

Perkins loans were created for students with exceptional financial need.