Republicans on Tuesday blocked the Senate from debating a Democratic bill keeping interest rates on college loans from doubling this summer for 7.4 million students.
Republicans say they support heading off higher rates on subsidized Stafford loans. They oppose how Democrats would pay for the measure — raising payroll taxes on high-earning stockholders of some privately owned corporations.
The vote was largely symbolic because the measure had no chance of approval in the Republican-run House. It was also designed with November's elections in mind because it could produce fodder for Democratic commercials against GOP senators.
Republicans want a vote on their own bill freezing interest rates and paid for by abolishing a health care fund.
Tuesday's vote was 52-45 to debate the measure — eight votes short of the 60 needed.
Earlier, the top Democrat in the Senate accused Republicans of caring more about the rich than about students.
Firing back, the Senate Republican leader said Democrats were using the chamber to create campaign issues instead of addressing the nation's problems.
The sharp exchange came shortly before the vote on whether to begin debating the Democratic plan to extend today's 3.4 percent interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans for another year.
Without congressional action, those rates will grow to 6.8 percent, thanks to a 2007 law that gradually lowered those rates but expires on July 1.
Republicans say they favor freezing student loan interest rates but oppose how Democrats would finance the $6 billion bill: by raising Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on high-earning stock holders of some privately owned corporations.