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Ohio College Dems scold senator for loan rate vote

Some letters are full of cordial remarks, thanks, sincere salutations and best wishes. But not the one that the College Democrats of Ohio sent to Sen. Rob Portman R-OH.
College Democrats of Ohio sent the letter to Portman on Monday, condemning him for voting against a Democratic proposal in Congress to freeze federal student loan interest rates.
The proposal was shot down May 8, which would have frozen Stafford loan interest rates at 3.4 percent by eliminating a tax break for wealthy citizens. If no action is taken in Congress, those interest rates will double to 6.8 percent on July 1.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that it would cost close to $6 billion for one year to extend the current federal student loan interest rates. According to the White House website, about seven million students nationwide would accrue an additional $1,000 in interest over their lifetime if the rates are not extended.
Debate between Republicans and Democrats in Congress addresses where the $6 billion would come from. Both parties agree the student interest rates should stay at 3.4 percent.
However, Senate Republicans proposed the funding to come from eliminating a public health fund created by Obama’s new health-care law. Senate Democrats, who proposed the failed legislation, said they want the money to come from taking away a tax break for the wealthy.
The letter was signed by 10 different university College Democrats presidents, including Ohio State’s president, Mallory Kimble.
Kimble said what she wants OSU students to take away from the letter is that while Portman voted “no” against the wishes of students, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, voted for them.
“I hope students remember this November that Sen. Brown voted for students, when Sen. Portman did not,” Kimble said.
Daniel Rajaiah, president of the College Democrats of Ohio and president of the College Democrats at the University of Dayton, said the group has not received a response from Portman’s office.
Christine Mangi, press secretary for Portman, said he agrees student loans should be kept at their current rate and that Portman is a co-sponsor of legislation that will keep them at that rate. She said Portman said the Democratic legislation was not the solution.
“Unfortunately, Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration are playing politics with the issue by misleading people to believe otherwise,” Mangi said.
The student letter comes after more than half of Democrats and exactly half of Republicans in Congress voted that Portman would make the best pick for Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate, according to results by National Journal’s informal insider poll.
Lauren Kulik, Brown’s press secretary, said Brown will continue working with his colleagues to ensure OSU students will not suffer from increasing interest rates.
“We must act now to prevent more than 26,000 OSU students and 382,000 students across Ohio from paying more for their student loans come July,” Brown said. “Ohio students and our economy can’t afford this sucker-punch at a time when we need to be doing more to get our economy back on track.”
Rajaiah said the reason the group sent the letter was to show Portman that Ohio students are taking notice of his casted vote.
“We want him (Portman) to fight for all Ohio students,” Rajaiah said. “And we want him to set aside his bias toward the Obama administration and think of all the students that are being affected by his vote, not just about what looks good for his own party. It’s affecting all Ohio students, regardless of their political party.”
The letter asked Portman to drop his political biases for Ohio students, because the student loan increase has the potential to affect hundreds of thousands of his own constituents.
“It is in that vein that we ask you to buck the trend of your party and support common sense legislation that would prevent student interest rates from doubling,” the letter states. “It is your responsibility as our Senator to ensure that 380,000 of your constituents aren’t potentially forced out of school due to a crippling interest rate hike.”
Niraj Antani, communications director for the OSU College Republicans, said he thinks it is unfortunate that the Ohio College Democrats are reprimanding Portman, because “he has such a good record.”
“It’s also unfortunate they do not understand that it is the Democratically controlled Senate and president that blocked a House bill that kept the low student loan interest rate, while eliminating a slush fund in Obamacare and did not raise taxes,” Antani said.
Rajaiah said the funds that the Republican legislation proposes cutting from are necessary and vital to women’s health and preventative health care. Kimble agreed.
“It is ridiculous, and if enough people find out about it, they’ll agree,” Kimble said. “Of course we should take away tax breaks from millionaires that don’t need the money instead of trying to cut preventative health care for those who need it.”
Jamie Leaver, president of the University of Dayton College Republicans, said taxing the wealthy is not the answer.
“You cannot solve every social and economic problem by taxing the wealthy. Unfortunately, this seems to be the go-to plan for nearly every Democratic policy,” Leaver said. “Casting one’s vote in Congress based on the motto of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor is not going to improve anything.”
President Barack Obama kicked off his re-election campaign on OSU’s campus on May 5, marking his second visit in three months to the campus. Romney has also visited the Buckeye state in the past month, with visits to Euclid, Ohio, May 7 and to Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, April 23.

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