Senate Republicans successfully beat back a bill that would have kept the interest rate on student loans at 3.4%, stopping a scheduled rise in the rate to 6.8%.
The legislation failed to muster the 60 votes needed to break a GOP-led filibuster. Senate Republicans vehemently opposed the measure because it would've eliminated a tax loophole for certain businesses - a move the GOP called a tax hike on job creators.
The vote was 52-45, with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) voting present.
"While we don't think young people should have to suffer any more than they already are as a result of this president's failure to turn the economy around, we just disagree that we should pay for a fix by diverting $6 billion from Medicare and raising taxes on the very businesses we're counting on to hire these young people," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who called the fight a "manufactured controversy" cooked up by Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) argued that closing the loophole is not a new tax and said he's more than willing to give Senate Republicans a vote on their alternative plan.
"If they want some other way to pay for it, let's take a look at it," Reid said before the vote. "Let them offer that. The stakes in this debate are too high to let partisanship get in the way."
A Snowe aide said she voted present to avoid conflict of interest concerns regarding her husband, John McKernan, who is board of directors chairman of the Education Management Corporation. Aside from Snowe, all Republican senators voted against the procedural vote. All Democrats voted for it, except for Reid, who voted no because that allows him to bring up the measure again.
McConnell is right - this was a political trap set by Obama and the Democrats. In fact, there hasn't been an honest proposal from Obama in two years that wasn't designed to make the GOP look bad.
It's not that the GOP is getting tangled up - it's that there is little Republicans can do to avoid the traps. I wonder if the GOP had voted for the measure if the Democrats would have allowed it to pass. That said, playing politics is par for the course in an election year as both parties seek to maneuver the other into a corner.