The Note: Loan Me Your Ears - The Debate Over Student Debt

Image credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • ON THE AGENDA: Today President Obama will hold an event at the White House urging Congress to act to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling in July, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. He will be joined by college students for his remarks in the Rose Garden at 10:20 a.m. ET. Also this morning, President Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Rasmussen in the oval office. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden wraps up his Latin America trip. He will meet separately with the president and vice president of Brazil and will deliver a statement with the vice president before returning to Washington.
  • THE BACKDROP: Just a month remains for Congress to prevent student loans from doubling on July 1, and both sides are still relatively far apart on a solution, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. There is one common thread tying the two sides together: everyone seems to acknowledge that financing an education can't stay cheap forever. The dueling proposals in Congress and from the White House - even the ones that preserve the status quo in the short term-all acknowledge that the 3.4 percent interest rates on federally subsided student loans will probably have to go up. Since 2007, Congress has kept interest rates for student loans frozen at 3.4 percent, and out of sync with market forces. Fixing the problem most likely would mean pegging student loans to market rates. Those rates are now at historically low levels but they are projected to eventually rise as the economy recovers.
  • DEMOCRATS TURN UP THE PRESSURE: To coincide with President Obama's remarks today, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is unveiling a paid advertising campaign in six college newspapers to pressure members of Congress in those districts to take action on student loan interest rates. The ads contend that "Instead of solving the problem of skyrocketing rates, House Republicans voted last week for the 'Students Pay More Act,' putting a bigger burden on the backs of indebted college graduates." They will be run on the following college campuses: University of Minnesota (Congressman John Kline, MN-02); California State San Bernardino (Congressman Gary Miller, CA-31) ; Clark College (Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, WA-03); Florida State University (Congressman Steve Southerland, FL-02); University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (Congressman Rodney Davis, IL-13); University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Congressman Joe Heck, NV-03).
  • THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': Fox News contributor and former Bush deputy chief of staff Karl Rove faces off with Bloomberg contributor and former Obama White House senior adviser David Plouffe, Sunday on "This Week." The two former advisers join editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group Arianna Huffington and PBS' "Washington Week" moderator and managing editor Gwen Ifill to debate all the week's politics on the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable . Then, in this week's "Sunday Spotlight," Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., discusses his historic 57-year congressional career, as he approaches becoming the longest-serving member in Congress next week. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. Tune in Sunday:


ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ: Get ready for a showing of political Groundhog Day in June (but instead of Bill Murray, it will be 7 million college students) as President Obama and Republicans prepare to repeat their fight over student loan interest rates. The battle was waged last year on the campaign trail and resulted in a one-year extension of the rates. As student loan interest rates are set to double on July 1 for approximately 7 million students, the president will re-launch his fight with Congress in an event with college students in the Rose Garden today. House Republicans have passed a plan, which White House spokesman Jay Carney said "does not meet the test" and the president has threatened to veto the proposal because it doesn't lock in low rates for students. But Republicans see the president's renewed push as an attempt to direct attention away from scandals, with House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman Brendan Buck saying it "reeks of desperation."

ABC' MICHAEL FALCONE: The latest national Quinnipiac University poll on the emerging 2016 presidential field looks a lot like every other poll on the race so far. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to lead all Republican challengers fairly handily (today's poll showed her beating both Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by an eight percentage point margin). But here's the difference: Clinton's sky-high favorability rating is starting to slip. "Ms. Clinton gets a 52-40 percent favorability rating, down from an all-time high 61-34 percent in a February 8 survey," the poll notes. Is this an early warning to the Democrats' strongest potential candidate? Here's how Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown sees the change: "The drop in her favorability is substantial among men, Republicans and independent voters. One reason for her drop may be that 48 percent of voters blame her either a little or a lot for the death of the American ambassador in Benghazi."

ABC's CHRIS GOOD: 2009 was a long time ago. Way back then, the off-year elections were flush with national relevance as referenda on President Obama and the future of the Republican Party: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's win over Democrat Creigh Deeds reflected Obama's post-election troubles and portended hope for moderate GOP messengers, while Doug Hoffman's conservative House run in upstate New York disrupted the party, caused problems for Newt Gingrich, and became a required endorsement for any Republican looking to side with conservatives over mainstream big-tenters. Four years later, we have none of that. In Anthony Weiner's comeback bid, Chris Christie's widely favored re-election run, and the Virginia governor's race between Democratic partisan Terry McAuliffe and conservative GOP Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, we have some characters to behold, for sure. But none of these races seem to mean anything for people outside of those two states and one city. National issues, it seems, are absent.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Former Alaska U.S senate candidate Joe Miller is no longer "former," according to paperwork filed with the FEC this week, but a statement released by Miller a day after his statement of candidacy became public made it clear that it was not an "official announcement" of his candidacy. Miller said, "support from the grassroots has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are moving forward within those guidelines organizing, fund-raising and coordinating with our volunteer base. Though an official announcement has not been made to date, the Citizens for Joe Miller committee has engaged in a thorough deliberative process and will notify our supporters and the press at such time as we have an official announcement to make." So, will he run? Miller had already announced an exploratory committee so a full-blown campaign against Sen. Mark Begich shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but he may have been caught off guard by the statement of candidacy that became public Tuesday. In 2010, Miller shocked the Alaska and national political worlds when he beat Sen. Lisa Murkowksi in the GOP primary, but she came roaring back beating him in a write-in (yes, a write-in) campaign. What's he been doing in the meantime? He's become a conservative blogger writing on the news of the day and even venturing into some conspiracy theories.


DONALD RUMSFELD ON AFGHANISTAN WAR: 'IT'S NOT COMBAT, AS SUCH.' Donald Rumsfeld made a habit of collecting adages to live by over the course of his decades-long government career. His collection began as a stack of index cards, which then transformed into a White House document dubbed "Rumsfeld's Rules" by President Ford, and has now evolved into a book. Most of Rumsfeld's new book Rumsfeld's Rules focuses on lessons in leadership, but it also sheds new light on the early days of the Bush administration's "War on Terror." The former secretary of defense reveals in the book that he doesn't recall the National Security Council ever having a formal discussion "to consider the consequences of a long-term and large-scale military presence" in Afghanistan. When asked by ABC's JONATHAN KARL, host of "Politics Confidential" about the apparent lack of decision-making, Rumsfeld qualifies that U.S. military operations in Afghanistan are a unique situation: "Well, it's not combat, as such. It's different than a World War II combat or a Korean War combat. It's even different from the beginning of the attack on Afghanistan, when the Taliban were defeated within a matter of weeks."

FIXING THE STUDENT LOAN SYSTEM: A LOOK AT THE PROPOSALS. Few politicians in Washington want to be on record proposing a policy that could eventually mean financing college becomes more expensive for students and their families, notes ABC's ABBY PHILLIP. But it is telling that even President Obama in his 2014 budget proposal has a suggested fix that could mean higher rates down the road. If interest rates looked more like they did in 2008, student loan interest rates would be closer to 5.56 percent than the 3.4 percent they are today. With the House Republican proposal, those rates would be closer to 6.93 percent at 2008 interest rate levels. President Obama, House Republicans, and Senate Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island, have put forward plans that use Treasury interest rates as a baseline for student loan interest rates. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and other Democrats have signed on to a separate plan that calls for a temporary two-year extension to the current 3.4 percent rate, which is intended to serve as a bridge between now and when Congress can hash out the details of a longer-term plan in an education bill sometime next year. A Senate Democratic aide told ABC News that even though there is an understanding that student loan interest rates will eventually have to vary with the market, Congress should prevent rates from rising above a certain level by including a "cap" on rates. President Obama's proposal does not call for a cap.

ANN ROMNEY 'VERY, VERY PARTIAL TO PAUL RYAN' FOR 2016. Ann Romney yesterday gave her first solo interview since the November election, weighing in on the recent scandals hitting the White House, as well as 2016 presidential politics, saying she and husband Mitt Romney are "very partial" to his former running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. "There are some great candidates out there and I think Mitt and I always are very, very partial to Paul Ryan, but we don't even know if he's going to run. But there are some good candidates," Romney said on CBS News' "This Morning." Romney called the scandals hitting the Obama administration "deeply troubling," including the IRS' targeting of conservative tax-exempt organizations. "I think it's hard what the country is going through right now," Romney said. "There is this breach of trust that all Americans feel right now with our government. … We have to have trust in our government, we have to believe that they are doing right for us. When we feel like they are breaking our trust, it's deeply troubling." She said both she and her husband have "no regrets" looking back at the campaign, but the "most frustrating" thing for her is that she thinks many Americans didn't see who her husband really is because of how "negative" the campaign became in the primary and the general elections, again comparing it to the slate of scandals.


@jmartNYT: RT @JRBoh: Dingell has served with 2,419 House members - 22 percent of those who've served in its entire history. …

@JustinBarasky: Washington Post: Pryor ad hits back at Bloomberg … #arsen

@AlexPappas: Byron York: Looking to 2016, Iowa GOP gets jazzed about Scott Walker of Wisconsin …

@shiratoeplitz: Hagan gets first of what will likely be a couple well-known challengers …

@LaraSpencer: Party in the park with the one and only @pitbull! What a morning!

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