March 11th, 2010
04:35 PM ET
4 years ago

Senate Democrats weigh adding student loans to health care bill

Sen. Harry Reid does not expect a decision on student loans today.
Sen. Harry Reid does not expect a decision on student loans today.

Washington (CNN) – Senate Democrats huddled in the Capitol Thursday afternoon to hash out the issue of whether to include changes to student loan policies in the same reconciliation bill that will include fixes to health care reform.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid emerged from the meeting to say that while a consensus among Democrats is forming, he does not expect a decision on the controversial issue today.
Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said more Senate Democrats support adding the student loan language than oppose it.

"There are some who think it complicates the ultimate vote. There are others who think it helps the ultimate vote. It's an honest difference of opinion," Durbin said.

The student loan legislation is a priority of President Obama and many Democrats on the Hill. It would remove private banks from offering student loans in favor of direct lending from the government.

Many Republicans and some Democrats oppose a government takeover of student loans and say it will cost jobs in many states where those private lending institutions exist.

The reason Democrats are considering adding the student loan language to the bill is because when the budget was passed last year, the student loan legislation was given the same special reconciliation instructions that the health care bill got, meaning it cannot be filibustered in the Senate.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a member of the Democratic leadership, was asked if lumping the two issues together would muddy the Democrats' message on health reform and fuel the pubic perception of a vastly expanding federal government.

"My own personal perception is, when we have thousands of kids on the street marching because they can't get into our universities and don't have the capability of pay for college, this is the best time for us to act," she said.

Despite marathon negotiation sessions to hammer out differences between the House and Senate visions of health care reform - that will be included the filibuster-proof reconciliation bill - Durbin said there are still "smaller substantive" items to resolve. He said senators were given a "general" presentation of what's expected in the reconciliation bill but some of those decisions can't be made until additional cost assessments come in from the Congressional Budget Office. It was not clear when those figures would be made available.

House and Senate Democratic leaders and White House aides are scheduled to continue their talks Thursday evening.


Filed under: Health care
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Bob in Pa.

    A proper upbringing prevents me from expressing myself appropriatly here.

    Thats the biggest problem with our government. Each piece of legislation should pertain to only the topic at hand. You want to change student loans, then create a bill that does nothing else.

    March 11, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. John in Brooklyn

    Brilliant move! Add kevlar vests for soldiers in there too...the Republicans wouldn't DARE vote against it.

    March 11, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. birdy

    i'm sick and tired of the gov't subsidizing private companies. the student loans SHOULD

    March 11, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. lisab

    I am thrilled that they are going to take action on this item, too. It's about time. You know they would never be able to get it done with Republican cooperation. The student loan industry is about as sympathetic as Wall Street bonuses and the credit card industry. It directly affects the ability of people to financially afford to educate themselves in this country.

    March 11, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  5. jules sand-perkins

    To add another controversial issue to the very serious and controversial issue of health care, and ram such a bill down Americans' throats through reconcilliation, is too irrational to contemplate, but I won't be surprised if Obama does it. Why not throw a copy of Chairman Mao's little red book for each citizen? The rich will pay for it.

    March 11, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. gt

    big government at its worest....

    March 11, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. Randy in PA

    Leave it to these idiots to start adding extras to a major bill. My God, why not add gun control and gay marriage to the health care reform bill also.

    March 11, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Kevin in Ohio

    Wait just a minute!!!!!!? The Senate passed the bill already! Its up to the house now to vote for their bill. And THEN it can be changed again??????????? Holy crap, WE ARE BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE by these criminals!

    As Nancy Pelosi said, we will get to see the final bill AFTER it is passed and find out all the "good things" that are in it. Plain and simple, Congress.... this bill is GARBAGE, and will bankrupt us all.

    March 11, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. Donna

    To make college affordable for all why doesn't the United States trade two years of school for 2-5 years of community service to the country? At least everyone will have an Associates Degree and some life experience. This could also be used as a tool to revamp the welfare system.

    March 11, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  10. birdy

    i'm sick and tired of the gov't subsidizing the banks who screw over the average american anyway. the student loans SHOULD be handled by the gov't directly to save us a whole lot of money.

    March 11, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. mo

    why not add if you vote democrat you get $500 and then add if you buy a GM car you get another $500 and then add if you have a high school education and work for a union you get another $500. Why not mention that anyone who works hard and dares to make over $40K/year gets taxed at 70% because we all know those people are trust fund babies who did not really earn their money while the union members who may have graduated HS work so hard.

    March 11, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. shucks

    This is exactly what is wrong with Washington. Why can they not get a clean bill without attaching all these extras? The republicans have done it also, so don't even go there. It has been like this for years just to get any legislation past. As a lifelong democrat, I am truly questioning the two party system and seeing it as a complete failure. The independent party is looking better and better every day.

    March 11, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  13. Wisconsonite - Rush Wants to Move to Costa Rica - Where They HAVE Socialized Medicine!

    Stop it! Vote on the darn bill already and don't add stuff to it to make it harder to pass than it already has been! Sheesh . . . . my thrird grade grandchild knows better than guys!

    March 11, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  14. greenfish

    It would be a good move. Student aid is the best investment this government can make. Educate our young and the dividends will flow back in greater productivity for years!!

    March 11, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I don't understand the connection??????????

    Can we PLEASE leave well enough alone Democraps?

    March 11, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  16. al in memphis

    Don't bog down things at the last moment. I agree the student loan effort is worth it by itself. It can happen separate from this in very short order.

    March 11, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  17. John in WV

    If you wanna see how fast the repubs can change course, throw some tax breaks to the rich in there.

    March 11, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  18. Rickster

    "Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a member of the Democratic leadership, was asked if lumping the two issues together would muddy the Democrats' message on health reform and fuel the pubic perception of a vastly expanding federal government."
    -------------------------
    Believe me, Patty, the democrats message on health reform couldn't get any muddier and the "public perception of a vastly expanding federal government"? Seriously? You think that's a "perception"?

    March 11, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. Dar

    I guess the Dems are trying to get those last few ear marks in before they pass the bill to abolish them. Unbeleiveable how the Dems work to get things passed under the works of a huge HC bill.
    What does student loans have to do with health care? OH I get it., they can become a doctor or nurse, silly me.

    2010/2012 REAL Change is coming

    March 11, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  20. WrongKindofChange

    What do you know...yet another goverment takover by the democrats. People we need less goverment in our lives not more. Can't you see how much money this is costing us having the government run and control everything?

    March 11, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. ran

    Don't do it guys. Make it a separate issue. Keep health care health care. don't confuse it with this or abortion or any other issue.

    Just have a vote and be done with this and go onto jabs,energy etc.

    March 11, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  22. Rick McDaniel

    Student loans have nothing to do with health care. Horrendously bad idea, Dems.

    March 11, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  23. I am the Great and Omnipotent Wizard of Rush and I Say . . .

    Why shouldn't private for-profit banks be able to charge made-up loan fees and interest at whatever rate they want? Hey maybe we should even have an unregulated usurious Pay-Day loans for students.

    March 11, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  24. Joyce

    I support student loans and I also support health reform, but they are two separate issues. Congress should keep things nice and clean by treating them independent of each other.

    March 11, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. Average American

    Dar obviously paid no attention to what Republicans did when they were running the show.

    March 11, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
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