Senator John Thune had a chance to help university graduates and stimulate the economy yesterday. He had a chance to vote for Senator Elizabeth Warren's plan to refinance millions of student loans at lower rates. Democratic Senate candidate Rick Weiland likes Warren's plan; so should the 25 million loan holders who could each save about $2,000 on interest and instead spend that money on real economy-boosting stuff (and those working folks would spend that money much more reliably than the rich bankers hoarding their interest).
Predictably, Senator Thune voted against Senator Warren's plan, joining his Republican colleagues in making sure that her plan fell four votes short of the 60 needed to move it forward in the Senate yesterday. Senator Warren paid for her plan with a tax increase on the rich, and in Senator Thune's anti-Vulcan logic, the needs of the comfy few outweigh the needs of the struggling many.
Senator Thune has put up a smokescreen to hide his anti-student vote. Earlier this week he floated a bill to let employers give pre-tax dollars to help employees refinance student loans with private lenders. Note the private lenders: we can't rouse Senator Thune and the GOP to help regular working folks if we can't also wedge the door open for more privatization.
Then yesterday, Senator Thune found a way to spin student financial woes into an Affordable Care Act issue, proposing a bill to exempt schools from the ACA employer mandate. Senator Thune contends that providing health insurance to employees takes money away from instructional budgets in the K-12 system and in colleges and universities. It's nice to see a Republican acknowledge that throwing more money at classrooms really does make education work better. However, Senator Thune is just taking another potshot at ObamaCare. In picking his ACA school exemption over Warren's student loan plan, Senator Thune is also showing that helping students by pinching the rich a little is unacceptable, while pretending to promote education by making it harder for school employees to get decent health insurance is just fine.
Thune's vote against Warren and his continued ObamaCare posturing are two more reasons we can't afford to send Mike Rounds to back up Thune's GOP foolishness in Washington. We have to wait until 2016 to replace Thune, but we can send a humane, sensible Democrat in 2014 to check Thune's assault on students and workers.