Excerpt

The following ran on the June 7, 2012, edition of The Hill. Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

Obama: Student loan rates a 'no-brainer'

 

June 11, 2012

By Amie Parnes

President Obama on Thursday accused congressional Republicans of stalling on legislation that would prevent student loan rates from doubling.

President Obama on Thursday accused congressional Republicans of stalling on legislation that would prevent student loan rates from doubling and urged them to “get to work.”

With less than a month to go before federally subsidized student loan rates double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, Obama said lawmakers “can’t just sit on their hands.”

“My message is Congress is simple: ‘Let’s get back to work,’” Obama said at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “How many people can afford to pay an extra 1,000 dollars if you’re a student just because Congress can’t get its act together?”

“That makes no sense,” he added. “This is a no-brainer … this is not complicated.”

Obama has tried to position himself as a champion of the lower student loan rates in visits to college campuses while trying to energize an age group that helped him win the White House in 2008.  

"I know this is an election year. That's not lost on me,” Obama said. “But at this make or break moment for America's middle class, we can't afford to have Congress take five months off.”

House Republicans passed their own version of student loan legislation last month over a presidential veto threat. And GOP leaders in both chambers have sent Obama two different proposals to pay for the $6 billion price tag for extending the lower loan rates. 

Republicans believe they have secured an advantage in the debate over loans because the White House has failed to respond to the two proposals. They accuse the president of campaigning on the issue so he can point to Congress for delaying action. ...

Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, predicted Obama would have the upper hand in the debate.

“The simple message is always best,” Jillson said. “Obama is saying I don’t want these rates to rise and I will fight to see they don’t … while Republicans are saying, ‘We don’t want the rates to rise, but if they don’t we would have to offset the cost and it would be really, really hard.”

“[It’s] a rare win for Obama,” he said.