News Releases

Republicans Filibuster Bill to Stop Student Loan Rate Hike

May 08 2012

Murray: Students all across the country are going to continue to make their voices heard



(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) expressed her strong disappointment that Senate Republicans filibustered the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012. Unless Congress acts, interest rates for more than 100,000 students across Washington state will double on July 1st. This increase will add $1,000 to the cost of these loans for millions of Americans and will be one more strain for working class students and families already fighting to afford college in this tough economy. The motion to proceed to the bill required a supermajority to defeat a filibuster and failed to achieve that on a vote of 52-45.

“I am extremely disappointed that Republicans have refused to even allow us to debate this critical bill to keep student loan rates low for millions of Americans,” said Senator Murray following the vote. “If they are truly interested in working with us to get this done, they should drop their filibuster and allow us to move forward to protect students who are already having a tough time affording college.”

Earlier today, Senator Murray spoke on the Senate floor in support of the bill, and shared stories she heard from her constituents last week at a roundtable discussions in Washington state.  Senator Murray also noted that if Republicans persist in blocking this bill, students across the country will continue to make their voices heard. She and her colleagues will continue to bring those stories to the floor until Republicans see that the students of America won’t take no for an answer.

Key excerpts from Murray’s speech:

“This isn’t just some abstract issue for me—it’s personal. Pell grants and student loans were what allowed my six siblings and I to go to college after my dad got sick and had to leave his job. They are what made college affordable—and they are what allowed us to each pursue careers and give back to our communities.  Because our government was there to help us through a hard time, those seven kids grew up to be: a firefighter, a lawyer, a computer programmer, a sportswriter, a homemaker,  a junior high school teacher, and a United States Senator. In my book, that was a good investment. And my family’s story is far from unique.”

“For millions of Americans, affordable college has been the ticket to the middle class. And for millions of small business owners—finding local workers with the education and skills they need has been what’s allowed them to expand and grow in our communities.  We can’t allow that to slip away—we can’t allow access to college to become unattainable for so many of our families. College costs are already rising far too quickly.”

“Student loan debt has spiked—and for the first time in U.S. history, the national student debt burden has surpassed $1 trillion—more than the total amount of credit card debt. So the last thing our students need right now—the very last thing—is for interest rates on this critical loan program to double.”

“If my Republican colleagues decide to block this bill today I know that students all across the country are going to continue to make their voices heard.  And whether it’s in person or in letters – or on Twitter or Facebook – we are going to bring those stories right here - to the floor of the U.S. Senate.   Over and over again until Republicans see that the students of America won’t take no for an answer. Until Republicans realize that they are standing in the way of students and an affordable education.”

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, we are here because unless Congress acts, interest rates for many students—over 100,000 across my home state of Washington—will double in just 55 days.

“On July 1st, the law we passed that held rates on federally-subsidized Stafford loans to 3.4% will end—and rates would jump overnight to 6.8%

“This would add $1,000 to the costs of these loans.

“And it would be one more strain for students and families already fighting to afford college and still struggling in this tough economy.

 “Mr. President, this isn’t just some abstract issue for me—it’s personal.

“Pell grants and student loans were what allowed my six siblings and I to go to college after my dad got sick and had to leave his job.

“They are what made college affordable—and they are what allowed us to each pursue careers and give back to our communities.

“Because our government was there to help us through a hard time, those seven kids grew up to be: a firefighter, a lawyer, a computer programmer, a sportswriter, a homemaker,  a junior high school teacher, and a United States Senator.

“In my book, that was a good investment.

“And my family’s story is far from unique.

“In fact, last week I crisscrossed Washington state, listening to student after student describe the real-life impact this rate hike would have on their livelihood.

"The Columbian, a newspaper in Vancouver, Washington, wrote a story on the rountable I held last week with local students.

"As the Columbian reported, the rate would impact students like Dora Hernandez, a first-generation college student at Washington State University in Vancouver.

"They reported that: Dora became a mother at the age of 18, two months after graduating from high school.

“She worked two to three jobs at a time to support herself and her child.

“It was at one of those jobs -- working the concession stand on a college campus -- that inspired her to improve her life by earning a post-secondary degree.

“She received some financial aid, but she will still have $29,000 in student loans to pay back once she graduates this month, and she has no job lined up.

“I was flabbergasted to find out how much student loan debt I’ve accrued,” she told me.

“Honestly, I’m scared. I hope Congress finds a way to keep interest rates on student loans down for students like myself,” she said.

“The Columbian also reported the story of Diane Robinson, a 24-year-old single mother who told me she decided to enroll at Clark College after a divorce left her with nothing.

“I would not be here without the loans,” Diane said. “It would just be impossible.”

“Through her tears, Diane told me she was raised to repay her debts and worries about her looming student loan payments every single day.

“If there is an increase on student loan interest rates it will compromise my quality of life,” she said, “Repaying the debt I have accrued will be essential for me to have a happy future.”

“Mr. President -- for millions of Americans, affordable college has been the ticket to the middle class.

“And for millions of small business owners—finding local workers with the education and skills they need has been what’s allowed them to expand and grow in our communities.

“We can’t allow that to slip away—we can’t allow access to college to become unattainable for so many of our families.

College costs are already rising far too quickly.

“Since 1985, the cost of a college education has increased by 559 percent as states have cut back their support for higher education—and operating costs have increased.

“Student loan debt has spiked—and for the first time in U.S. history, the national student debt burden has surpassed $1 trillion—more than the total amount of credit card debt.

“So the last thing our students need right now—the very last thing—is for interest rates on this critical loan program to double.

“Mr. President, we simply can’t afford to allow that to happen.

“Because at a time when mortgage rates are under 4%, we should be doing everything we can to keep rates low for as many students as possible.

 “We should be investing in our future, and trying to get more high school students to continue their education—we shouldn’t be doubling the interest rates on a critical loan program students count on.

 “That just doesn’t make sense.

“Mr. President, the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike is a common-sense measure that will prevent a rate hike on more than 7.4 million college students,  and pay for it by closing a tax loophole that allows certain wealthy professionals to dodge paying their fair share of taxes. 

“I urge my Republican colleagues to work with us to invest in America’s future by stopping this student loan increase to make college more affordable for America’s middle class.

“And I just want to add that it’s not just students like Dora and Diane who are speaking out against this rate hike.  

“In fact, if my Republican colleagues decide to block this bill today I know that students all across the country are going to continue to make their voices heard.

“And whether it’s in person or in letters – or on Twitter or Facebook – we are going to bring those stories right here - to the floor of the U.S. Senate.  

“Over and over again until Republicans see that the students of America won’t take no for an answer.

“Until Republicans realize that they are standing in the way of students and an affordable education.

“Thank you Mr. President.”

NOTE: This is an updated version of a previous release that includes attribution.