Legislation pushed by Connecticut’s U.S. senators to allow former college students to refinance their loans failed Wednesday to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the Senate.
The bill would have allowed people paying high interest rates on existing student loans to refinance their debt at current student loan rates, which were lowered by legislation passed last year. It relied upon the elimination of tax breaks for some upper income households in order to fill the revenue hole that would be created by lower-than-expected returns.
The bill failed on a 56-38 vote Wednesday morning.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who cited his own lingering college debt while trying to shore up support for the bill, blamed Republicans in Congress for obstructing the legislation.
“Allowing students to refinance their loans will make college more affordable for millions of people, plain and simple. But despite that, Republicans have yet again blocked another piece of legislation that would help strengthen the middle class, level the playing field, and shrink the income gap that continues to persist in this country,” Murphy said in a press release.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called the vote a setback for students and their families. He said he intended to eventually bring the bill back.
“Once again, the misuse of arcane Senate rules has done a disservice to the American people, most especially current, former, and prospective students who are trying to better themselves,” Blumenthal said in a press release.
During a press conference recorded Tuesday by the newspaper Roll Call, Senate Republicans characterized the bill as doomed in the Republican-controlled House. Republicans said they would prefer to focus on passing legislation to address problems in the Veterans Affairs health care system.
“The issue in the senate this week is what are our priorities?” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “We’re going to have another showboat in the morning on a tax increase bill styled as a student loan bill.”
McConnell said the proposal to eliminate upper income tax breaks—often referred to as the “Buffett Rule”—is a political gimmick.
“My counsel to my members is: why would we want to get on a bill like that that clearly is not going anywhere, it will be blue-slipped by the House, when we have a bipartisan veterans bill,” he said.