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“Democrats offered an amendment to fix this” in the budget’s markup, Van Hollen said, and it was voted down on a party-line vote.
The amendment would have increased taxes, violating a strongly held Republican policy position.
A Democratic aide said Democrats — incumbents and challengers — have been citing the student loan issue back home across the country as part of a “series of problems” with the Ryan budget.
In New Jersey for instance, Shelley Adler, a Democratic candidate challenging Republican Rep. Jon Runyan, has played up the issue.
“This is simply about values and priorities. We must have a budget that protects middle class families,” Adler, the widow of the Rep. John Adler, said in a statement last week.
Republicans are confident they’ve turned the issue into a political plus for them by transitioning the debate to the health care law, which remains unpopular, according to public polling.
They argue Democrats have boxed themselves in by defending the health care law at the cost of heading off the interest rate increase.
“House Democrats voted to allow rates to double because they evidently care more about protecting an Obamacare slush fund than helping college students. If those are their priorities, this is a debate we’re very comfortable having,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner.
Van Hollen said he and Ryan, who has been featured in several high-profile news profiles this week, enjoy a good working relationship, but the Democrat vowed to challenge Republicans with a vigorous debate on the policy issues that they disagree on.
“It’s a totally lopsided approach,” Van Hollen said of Ryan’s budget.