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Student loans, immigration key issues in D.C.

June 23, 2013

U.S. CapitolWith only a few legislative days remaining in June, Congress has yet to act to avert the scheduled doubling of the interest rates for subsidized federal Stafford student loans, from the current rate of 3.4% to 6.8%, scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2013.

The House Democrats have filed a discharge petition that would require an up-or-down vote on a bill (H.R. 1595) to extend the current low interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans for two years, allowing Congress time to consider long-term, comprehensive solutions to address both rising college costs and affordability during the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

On the other hand, House Republicans believe that the interest rate on student loans should be tied to market rate.  It has been estimated that a failure by Congress to act now would result in an additional $4.3 billion to students’ debt burden.

Most Congressional action has been centered on reforms to the nation’s immigration system.  The Senate is concentrating on S. 744, the comprehensive immigration reform package advanced by the Gang of Eight (which includes Illinois Senator Dick Durbin).  The Congressional Budget Office this week said that S. 744 will significantly reduce the federal budget deficit in its first two decades if it becomes law.  It is possible that the Senate could take a final vote on this bill before the July 4 recess.

In the House, indications are that they will release their version of a comprehensive immigration reform bill this week.  In the meantime, the House Judiciary Committee is holding its first markup next week on an enforcement-centered bill that the House Democrats strongly oppose.  Judiciary Committee Chair, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), has not committed to moving forward with any comprehensive immigration package.  The enforcement provision would give states the authority to carry out federal immigration laws.

Congress is slated to take an Independence Day recess July 1-5.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of State and Federal Relations for NIU.