Noting that student loan debt in the U.S. has ballooned to roughly $1 trillion, Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin spoke with students at Bowie State University on Thursday to draw attention to a proposal Democrats will push next week to allow borrowers to refinance their student loans.
"In this country you can refinance a yacht but you can't refinance your student loan," Mikulski said. "We want students to have a fair shot at lowering their debt interest rates."
The bill, which would allow people to refinance federal and private loans issued before 2010 at a rate below 4 percent, is not likely to gain much traction in this Congress. The measure, authored by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, failed to capture the 60 votes needed to advance earlier this summer.
Republicans have objected in part to the bill's funding mechanism -- an income tax increase on people earning between $1 million and $2 million -- and have argued Democrats are playing politics with the issue ahead of this November’s midterm elections.
The Democratic senators say that 70 percent of college seniors who graduated in 2012 left school with an average of $29,400 of debt. In Maryland, more than half of graduating students borrow to pay for school.
"It is, I think, obscene that the federal government is making such a large profit off of student loans," Cardin said. "We can correct that in the United States Senate next week."
Democratic lawmakers are touting the issue at events across the country during the congressional summer recess. Mikulski and Cardin were scheduled to meet with students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, later Thursday.
Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill early next week.