political notebook

Markey, Warren oppose loan deal

Senator Elizabeth Warren (left) and Senator Edward Markey.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (left) and Senator Edward Markey.

WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey are opposing a bipartisan compromise aimed at preventing interest rates from doubling on subsidized federal student loans, saying it unfairly allows the government to reap profits from students.

“The US loans to big banks at less than 1 percent interest, and here we turn around and demand profits on the back of our kids. That’s wrong. This is not the business the US government should be in,” Warren said in an interview Thursday. “We need to invest in our kids, not make it harder for them to get an education.”

The government would gain about $184 billion over 10 years from the program, according to the Congressional Budget Office.


Interest rates doubled to 6.8 percent after Congress, amid partisan wrangling, missed a July 1 deadline to change it. The compromise would set the interest rate at 3.86 percent for the 9 million undergraduates expected to take out federal student loans this summer, and cap the rate for any future increases at 8.25 percent.

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Warren referred to the deal as a “teaser-rate student loan system,” and championed her own legislation to lend students money at the same discount rates granted to large banks. Warren’s proposal sought to set the rate at 0.75 percent for one year.

“We need to do more to make college affordable so that every student who dreams of higher education isn’t saddled with higher loan rates,” Markey said in a statement. “I will oppose plans that substantially increase the rates students pay now and in the future.”

The bipartisan group of senators that struck the deal include Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat; Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican; Angus King, a Maine independent; Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican; Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat; Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat; Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican; and Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.

Durbin, the majority whip, spoke Thursday immediately after Warren railed against the bill and addressed her directly.


“Please, walking away from that just doesn’t make sense,” Durbin said, adding that he accepts Warren’s premise that “we can do better.” But, he said, “we don’t have the votes.”


Tracy Jan

Senators approve Obama’s nominee for head of EPA

WASHINGTON — Gina McCarthy won Senate confirmation as head of the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out President Obama’s agenda to reduce air pollution and fight climate change.

McCarthy, the agency’s assistant administrator, directed EPA rulemaking in Obama’s first term, forcing coal-fired power plants to curb mercury emissions, imposing new standards on boilers in hospitals, and setting pollution limits for cement plants.

She will be charged with implementing those measures as well as writing rules limiting carbon emissions from power plants.


McCarthy, 59, is a Massachusetts native who was a top environmental official under Republican Governor Mitt Romney. She was confirmed 59 to 40.

Globe Wire Services


Pick for Joint Chiefs of Staff earns McCain’s disapproval

WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain said Thursday that he will block Army General Martin Dempsey’s nomination for a second term as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman due to his dissatisfaction with the officer’s responses to questions about the potential use of US military power in Syria.

McCain, Republican of Arizona, pressed Dempsey during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide his opinion on which approach in Syria carries greater risk: continued limited action on the part of Washington, or more significant steps such as establishment of a no-fly zone and arming rebel forces.

Dempsey said he has provided President Obama with options for the use of military force, but he declined to detail those choices. “It would be inappropriate for me to try to influence the decision with me rendering an opinion in public about what kind of force we should use,” Dempsey said.


Associated Press

Obama considers skipping Moscow summit with Putin

WASHINGTON — The White House might cancel a fall summit between President Obama and President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Moscow, a move that would further aggravate their tense relationship.

The White House is dangling that option over the Russians as Moscow considers a temporary asylum petition from Edward Snowden, accused of leaking information about classified US intelligence.

Obama will still attend an international summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.


Associated Press