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Senate GOP vows to block White House student loan bill

From Ted Barrett, CNN
updated 7:58 PM EDT, Mon May 7, 2012
Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl says Republicans want a Senate vote on their alternative student loan bill.
Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl says Republicans want a Senate vote on their alternative student loan bill.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kyl says Republicans want a Senate vote on their plan
  • Federal student loan rates are scheduled to double July 1
  • Democrats and Republicans are divided on how to fund an extension of the lower rate

Washington (CNN) -- Senate Republicans will block Democrats from taking up a White House-backed bill to cap rates on some student loans unless Democrats allow a vote on a GOP alternative, the second-ranking Senate Republican said Monday.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl predicted such a confrontation could lead to an ultimate compromise on the legislation before rates are set to double in July, something lawmakers from both parties and the White House want to prevent.

"We'll defeat cloture," Kyl said, using the legislative parlance for a key procedural vote scheduled for Tuesday that requires 60 votes to succeed. If Republicans prove Democrats can't move a bill without GOP support, "I presume leaders in the House and Senate will get together and find a way to ensure the interest rate doesn't double," Kyl said.

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said negotiations over the issue are still under way.

Interest rates on federal student loans are scheduled to double from the current 3.4% in July unless Congress acts. But Democrats and Republicans disagree over how to offset the $6 billion it would cost to keep the rates down: Democrats want to eliminate a tax break for some corporations while Republicans want to pull funds from a preventative health care fund set up under the health reform law.

Each spending plan is opposed by the other party. President Barack Obama has led a high profile, multi-pronged lobbying push to pressure Republicans to support the Democrats' bill.

Kyl said Republicans are "really disappointed" Reid has not agreed to hold a vote on the Republican funding alternative.

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