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Today, we are lucky to have votes taking place in both the House and the Senate that reveal who the true progressives are because Democrats will have to vote against the administration on key issues--on the NSA in the House and on the student loan "compromise" in the Senate.

The White House has been putting pressure on Senate Democrats to support the student loan "compromise" deal crafted last week and has threatened to vilify the bill's Democratic opponents.

What does the "compromise" bill do?

Under the agreement, federal student loans will be calculated and fixed to the interest rates on the 10-year Treasury bill. Undergraduates will pay an additional 2.05% with an 8.25% interest rate cap; graduate students will pay an additional 3.6% with a 9.5% interest rate cap; and PLUS loans, which mainly affect parents of college students, will have an additional 4.6% with a 10.5% interest rate cap.

The New York Times editorial board came out against the bill this morning:

During the last decade, Congress sensibly replaced a system of variable-rate loans with fixed rates that allowed families to know what their loans would cost. It set the rate on both subsidized and unsubsidized loans at 6.8 percent, but later ordered the rate on subsidized loans — two-thirds of which go to families with incomes under $50,000 — to gradually decline by half. The refusal of Republicans in both houses to renew the lower rate means that students who start college this fall and finish in four years will be saddled, on average, with an extra $4,000 in debt.

This increase in costs comes at a time when college debt has already reached record levels, damaging the economy and hobbling young graduates. It also draws attention to the fact that the federal government is making quite a lot of money from the loan program. An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the new, higher rate would earn the government about $184 billion over the next decade, after taking into account program costs, including potential defaults. Ms. Warren and other lawmakers describe this pile of money as “profit.” The Obama administration disputes this. But if it is not profit, what is it?

The government should not be making money off the backs of struggling student borrowers. In the long term, the loan program needs to be restructured so that the loans are closely linked to the government’s actual cost of borrowing, which could reduce rates for students.

A Senate compromise bill that is supposed to address the harmful rate increase falls well short. The bill, supported by the White House, would temporarily lower interest rates, while raising rates in future years to make up for lost federal revenue. (Under interest rate caps included in the bill, rates on undergraduate loans in future years could rise as high as 8.25 percent.) Ms. Warren got it exactly right when she said the bill pits students against one another, requiring future college students to pay for the financial break enjoyed by students who precede them. “I think this whole system stinks,” she said, summing it up.

However, the New York Times editorial board did endorse the amendment put forth by Jack Reed and Elizabeth Warren to cap most loans at a rate of 6.8%.
The Senate bill should pass only if it includes a provision, offered by Ms. Warren and Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat of Rhode Island, that would cap most loans at the rate of 6.8 percent. If Republicans resist that, the Senate should leave the loan rate exactly where it is. Congress should not make matters worse than they already are.  
Over the past few days, a coalition of Senate liberals had been sending out petitions to their email lists on this issue: Jack Reed (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). I've heard Boxer, Sanders, and Warren speak out against the bill on the Senate floor.

Unfortunately, the Warren-Reed amendment failed 46 to 53.  7 members of the Democratic caucus joined the full Republican caucus in opposition.

Which seven Democrats want the government to make more profits off the backs of college students?

Tom Carper (D-DE)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Angus King (I-ME)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposed an amendment that would provide a sunset date to the student loan bill so that the bill's provisions would end before the steep rate spikes for future students take effect.  

Sanders's amendment failed 34 to 65.  

Which 19 Democrats see no problem with a bill that hikes rates for future loans, allowing the government to make money off students?

Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Angus King (I-ME)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Mark Warner (D-VA)

The full bill, without these important progressive amendments, passed 81 to 18. 36 Democrats joined the Republican caucus (save Mike Lee of Utah) to pass this anti-student legislation.  I want to name and shame the 36 Democrats who voted for it but also commend the 17 Democrats who were willing to oppose the White House on this issue.

Here are the 36 Democrats who sold out the country's students:

Max Baucus (D-MT)
Mark Begich (D-AK)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Angus King (I-ME)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Now, here are the 17 Democrats that you should thank for standing up for progressive values:

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Votes like this are important because they help us to identify which Democrats will vote for what's right rather than what the White House wants when those two conflict.

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