Will the GOP Student Loan Gambit Blow Up?

Yesterday I noted Greg Sargent’s prediction that the maneuverings of House Republicans on the student loan interest rate issue might come to resemble their notably unsuccessful meanuverings on the payroll tax, with hard-core conservatives refusing to support the party line even as Democrats remained united.

It looks like Greg may have had a very good point, based on this report from The Hill‘s Cameron Joseph:

The well-funded, fiscally conservative Club for Growth has urged House Republicans to vote against legislation that would extend lower interest rates on federal student loans, a move that could complicate Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) plan to pass the legislation on Friday.

“The federal government should not be in the business of distorting the market for student loans,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “Decades of government intervention have driven tuition costs to record highs, and continuing these subsidies is simply bad policy. We urge members of Congress to oppose them.”

The group said it would include the vote in its legislative scorecard, which it uses to decide which Republicans it should challenge in primaries.

I’m sure Boehner and his team are frantically reminding House conservatives that the vote is not necessarily designed to actually affect student loan interest rates, but rather to share the blame with Democrats, because it’s nestled in the poison pill of a provision offsetting the cost by raiding a health prevention fund created by ObamaCare. As Joseph notes, that’s why Democrats are expected to vote as a bloc against the House bill. If, however, conservatives begin to bail on Boehner and the bill goes down, the expected Senate bill without the poison pill will become the only vehicle for avoiding the interest rate hike, and then Republicans really do have a big problem.

I’m sure Boehner would prefer to accelerate the weekend and get out on the links for a smoke and some rays.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.