Senate Democratic leaders are negotiating whether to allow votes on a handful of amendments from liberal lawmakers to a bipartisan agreement reached last week on student-loan rates, according to Democratic leadership aides.There's a solution that would mollify most Democrats. That's Sen. Jack Reed's amendment to cap interest rates at 6.8 percent on Stafford loans, 7.9 percent for graduate loans, meaning they wouldn't go any higher than they are set at right now. As currently written, Stafford loans rates for undergraduates could go as high as 8.25 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 percent for graduate students, and 10.5 on PLUS loans available to graduate students and parents of students. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse have lent their support to that amendment.
The discussion reflects liberal unease with the agreement announced last week and raises the likelihood that it may not pass with a Democratic majority. Democratic vote-counters now put the number of likely votes from their party “in the low 20s,” according to a leadership aide. [...]
Democratic aides described the amendment process as fluid, but the list of possible changes included submissions from Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Jack Reed, D-R.I.
Most important, the Reed amendment would keep these loans affordable. Young people are already coming out of college crippled by debt. Student loan debt surpasses both credit card debt and auto loan debt, and its a growing anchor not just on college graduates, but on the economy. Keeping that debt from getting more out of control should be paramount for the Senate. Reed's amendment would help.