Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth pledged Thursday to vote against Republican-sponsored legislation to freeze interest rates on federal student loans, calling the plan a cynical ploy against two vulnerable groups.
Earlier this week, President Obama held rallies on three different college campuses urging lawmakers to stop subsidized Stafford loan interest rates from doubling. The increase would affect more than 7.4 million students increasing the interest cots from 3.4 percent to 6.4 percent.
Facing mounting political pressure, House Republicans introduced a plan that finances the cost by cutting $6 billion in Mr. Obama’s health care law, which Speaker John Boehner, R-Oh., called a “slush fund” that hurts small businesses. But that part of the Affordable Care Act is meant to help state and cities fight against chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Yarmuth says Republicans are forcing a vote that pits helping young people against protecting seniors, and that he won’t go along with the idea.
“What the Republicans are trying to do—and I think it’s a very cynical approach—is just to say we’re cutting money out of Obamacare because they think they can slip that by the American people. This is a very, very cynical approach to government and there is no substantive justification for what they’re trying to do,” he says.
Leaders of both parties have come out in support of the idea of extending the interest loan cuts, which were first passed by Congress in 2007. Initially, GOP lawmakers were critical of Mr. Obama’s push and called it a re-election ploy, but after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney embraced the call for freezing interest rates, House and Senate Republicans stitched together a plan.
“Providing our nation’s young adults with affordable higher education is critical to ensuring America remains competitive,” Sen. Dan Coats, R-In, said in a statement. “Both sides of the aisle are on board with preventing interest rates on student loans from doubling. Congress must ensure students receive the support they need without raising taxes on job creators or adding more to the nation’s unsustainable debt.”
Senate Democrats have also proposed their own version that pays for the interest rates by raising Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations.
Political observers predict the vote could put House Democrats in a bind and force them to vote against a key proposal that the president is pushing during an election year.
But Yarmuth says politics won’t be on his mind voting against the measure and he hopes citizens will see through political fog.
“I voted for the law back in 2007 that reduced the interest rates and my record is very clear. I think that we can justify lower interest rates for the Stafford loan program and I don’t think Americans are going to be deceived by this, what is pretty much a political stunt,” he says.
The House is schedule to vote on the GOP measure Friday.