Bipartisan loan bill still eludes Senate

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 6:27 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A handful of senators struggled on Thursday to hold together a bipartisan deal to keep student loan rates from doubling on July 1 as their colleagues traded political barbs with little more than a week to go before the deadline.

Top White House officials, meanwhile, told lawmakers they are open to changes in President Obama's student loan proposal if a compromise could be reached that would win congressional approval.

The behind-the-scenes negotiations are an attempt to head off a rate hike that Congress' Joint Economic Committee estimated would cost the average student borrower $2,600 more. Both parties rushed to microphones to point fingers at the other for the potential hike but kept in touch with back-channel efforts that would prevent them from being blamed for adding to high college costs.

“There's no question there are discussions going on in the Senate right now, bipartisan discussions. Whether it bares fruit in the next 10 days is going to be a nail-biter,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn.

The bipartisan deal, which would link undergraduate student loans' interest rates with the financial markets, would save the government more than $8 billion during the next 10 years, according to an unpublished Congressional Budget Office report.

Democratic and Republican Senate aides insisted on anonymity in discussing the budget office report because it has not been released to the public yet, and they are not authorized to discuss it publicly.

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