Democrats Vow to Push GOP to Address Student Debt

Murray, left, and Schumer, right, said they will push the GOP to address student debt. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats pledged Thursday to prod the Republicans who control Congress to combat student loan debt this year, whether through legislation or floor amendments.  

"I want to make sure that we get this done," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., one of several Democrats unveiling a legislative package to relieve spiraling debt levels. According to the Federal Reserve, student loan debt topped $1.3 trillion in Sept. 2015. "We’re willing to look at any way to get that done.” That could include a tactic that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., floated on Wednesday , which involved trading Democratic support for bringing legislation to the floor in exchange for votes on amendments related to Democratic priorities.  

Fattah Could Have Avoided Some Trouble Through Possible Student Loan Repayment

Fattah helped create the Student Loan Repayment for staff and is now under fire for his own student loan mishandling. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., was one of five members present in July 2002 when the House Administration Committee made the Student Loan Repayment Program a reality for the House of Representatives.  

Perhaps, in hindsight, he should have allowed members of Congress — not just full-time staff — to participate in the program. Fattah is charged with 29 counts of racketeering conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud. The allegations include a consultant making 34 successful loan payments on behalf of his son, Chaka Fattah Jr., to pay down his debt from Drexel University.  

Student Loan Repayment Is for Parents, Too

Student loan repayment isn't just for students: parents can qualify, too. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Student loans. A serious question that many undergraduates and graduates think about. But what about when it’s the parents concern? Can parents receive money from the student loan repayment program for loans taken out for their kids’ college education? Hill Navigator discusses.

Climbing That Ladder: Will Graduate School Help on Capitol Hill?

Too cool for graduate school? How graduate school affects Capitol Hill job prospects (CQ Roll Call File Photo).

Got ambition? Plenty of high-ranking Capitol Hill staffers once started answering the phones and answering mail (even before there was email ... back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). But take a look at any resume stack and graduate school comes up quite a bit. So just how helpful is that graduate degree on Capitol Hill? Hill Navigator discusses:

Student Loan Payments, With Strings Attached

Is there a hard-working staff assistant in your office who deserves a raise? What happens when the office offers student-loan repayments instead? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Student Loan Repayment Program can be a financial boon to many Capitol Hill staffers. But what happens when an office offers loan payments in lieu of a raise? Hill Navigator discusses.

Student Loan Forgiveness for Staff on Chopping Block

The public service loan forgiveness program, which provides incentives for public service, may be facing cuts in this year's budget. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of the more generous benefits for congressional staffers might be on the chopping block in this year’s budget. The House and Senate budgets include cuts for education, employment and training, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The program forgives all federally backed student loans for those working for 10 cumulative years in public service — including time spent on Capitol Hill.  

Both the House and Senate budgets would cut the subsidy that allows people to not pay interest while they’re in undergraduate studies and for six months after. The Student Loan Repayment Program , which authorizes the House and Senate and select federal agencies to pay back student loans, would not be affected. The budget conference committee started meetings this week to work out the differences between the chambers' two versions. It’s not clear how many current and former Hill staffers would be affected by discontinuing the forgiveness program, which was was started in 2007. Those eligible would begin receiving their full forgiveness in 2017. Any changes are not likely to affect those already enrolled, but would affect future graduates pursuing public service.  

Hill Staffer Student Loan Perk Comes With Caveats

Working on Capitol Hill may help shoulder some of that mounting student loan debt. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Have student loans and want a $10,000 raise? The Student Loan Repayment Program, offered through both the House and Senate, can shoulder the student loan burden for up to $10,000 per staff member per year.  

The funds come from a central account administered by the House Chief Administrative Officer and the secretary of the Senate — not from the participating office or committee budget. So a member of Congress looking to give staffers a financial boost without dipping deeper into their Members’ Representational Allowance can easily take advantage. But there are several limits, both from the program and the offices, that restrict the amount of repayment, as well as which staffers can take advantage of the program. Interns are not eligible, nor are part-time or temporary workers, even those who are paid. Only full-time staffers are eligible.  

Senate Democrats Have Full Agenda Ahead

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats are in a race against the clock in order to consider all the must-pass legislation, such as a new highway bill and an overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs, alongside a host of election-year items aimed at drawing contrasts with the GOP.  

The Senate is poised to consider a bipartisan deal — drafted by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — that would reduce wait times for medical care at the VA.  

Elizabeth Warren Leads Progressive Charge, but Has GOP Admirers Too

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

"What reaction do you usually expect from banks?" Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked a reporter last week.  

It was classic Warren. Appearing at a news conference with fellow Democrats and D.C.-area college students to roll out legislation she spearheaded that would let borrowers refinance student loans, the Massachusetts Democrat dismissed a question about financial institutions losing profits from older, high-interest loans.  

For Senate Democrats, No Credit for Wage Proposal From Obama

In September, 15 Senate Democrats put pen to paper to urge President Barack Obama to issue an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10. On Tuesday, they'll get exactly what they wanted from Obama — except for any recognition of their efforts.  

Of the 15 lawmakers on the letter, championed by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., four senators are up for re-election in 2014: Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.