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If Congress doesn't act, student loan rates double in 10 days, on July 1. According to President Obama, speaking today to students, if that happens, "more than 7 million students will be hit with the equivalent of a $1,000 tax hike," yet "we've been stuck watching Congress play chicken with another deadline."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell referred to the president's focus on student loans as "another sad example of his election-year strategy of deflection and distraction." McConnell's official logic here is that the House passed a bill that would extend the lower student loan interest rates—by cutting funding for cancer screenings and childhood immunizations. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, filibustered a bill that would have kept student loan interest rates low by closing a corporate tax loophole. According to McConnell, since the House passed a bill and the Senate hasn't yet, the Senate should pass the House bill and the president should sign it, regardless of what exactly is in the House bill.
Obama urged students and parents to keep up the pressure on Congress to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate without demanding unacceptable trade-offs, pushing back on Republican claims that this issue is a distraction from the economy by noting that "this is the economy." It's hard to know what else to call adding a $1,000 a year burden to 7 million working-class and middle-class young people. "Tell them," he said, "to double down on an America where everybody who works hard has a fair shot at success."