A proposal from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) aimed at letting student borrowers with older loans refinance at lower rates failed to pass the Senate on Wednesday.
The bill, which would have helped about 25 million borrowers refinance by taxing the wealthiest Americans, was struck down by a vote of 56 to 38.
Republicans had balked at the idea of a tax increase and said the bill was a political ploy in advance of the 2014 midterm elections.
“This is not a serious proposal,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), “and everybody in the Senate knows that.”
But in an interview with Fusion’s Alicia Menendez, Warren hit back at the idea that the proposal was an attempt to energize a Democratic base ahead of the elections.
“That’s just wrong,” Warren told Menendez. “We need to bring this to a vote.”
She added that helping student loan borrowers find some relief is a long-term goal, regardless of the opposition.
“I’m going to keep fighting on this every day,” she said.
“It’s a question of values,” Warren added. “Are we going to be a country that says this place works only for millionaires and billionaires, and that the Republicans are going to get out and make sure that every single tax loophole is protected for millionaires and billionaires? Or are we going to take that very same money and say, we’re going to use it to help young people who are just getting started?”
Democrats are now turning their attention to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which governs student loan policy. But there is little agreement between Republicans and Democrats on what should be included and the rewrite could take years.
Earlier this week, President Obama sought to bring some debt relief to borrowers with an executive order to cap loan repayments at 10 percent of borrowers’ incomes.
Student advocacy groups, which have applauded the order, expressed their displeasure at the Senate vote on Wednesday and vowed to continue pushing Congress for action.
“With one in seven students defaulting on their debt within a few years of graduating, we are deeply disappointed that the Senate voted to block a measure that would have provided immediate relief to America’s struggling student loan borrowers,” said Rory O’Sullivan, deputy director of Young Invincibles. “It is frustrating to watch the Senate refuse to even debate this bill while $1.2 trillion dollars in student debt stifles our generation’s opportunities.”