Obama Chides Opponents of Bill to Help Student-Loan Borrowers

June 10, 2014

President Obama threw his weight behind a Democratic bill to refinance student-loan debt on Monday, saying passage of the measure should be a "no brainer."

Speaking at a White House event, Mr. Obama blasted Republicans who oppose the bill because it would raise the tax rate for millionaires, and urged voters to hold them accountable in the midterm elections this November.

"I don’t know why folks aren’t more outraged about this," he told the audience at the event, where he signed an executive order expanding the most generous federal income-based repayment plan to more borrowers.

"You would think if someone has done reasonably well, partly because the country has invested in them, that they wouldn’t mind paying the same rate as a teacher or a nurse," he said. "Lower tax bills for millionaires, or lower loan payments for students—this should be a no brainer."

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, stepped up their criticism of the refinancing bill (S 2432), which Senate Democrats hope to bring to the floor on Wednesday. In a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate education committee, dismissed the measure as a "partisan political stunt" that will distract lawmakers from more important debates over job growth and school improvement.

Mr. Alexander urged Democrats to send the measure back to committee, where lawmakers could "continue the same kind of rigorous bipartisan discussion that produced last year’s reduction of interest rates on all new student loans."

He argued that the bill would save borrowers just $1 a day, based on average borrowing levels among undergraduates.