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In Mass., Warren, Markey balk at student loan deal

July 22, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey on Monday criticized a Senate compromise on college loans, saying the deal doesn’t go far enough to protect students from crushing debt.

While it could lower rates for students and parents in the near future, it also could mean higher rates as the economy improves. And Warren said that while she’s in favor of compromise, the deal currently on the table doesn’t do enough to reduce what she says are profits the government is making from student loans.

“From my point of view what a compromise means is we reduce at least a little bit the profits we’re making off the backs of our kids,” Warren said after she and Markey, both Massachusetts Democrats, toured an incubator for new high-tech startup companies. “I don’t think it’s a compromise to say we’re going to keep making more and more profits off our students.”

Federal lawmakers are trying to undo a rate hike for subsidized Stafford loans that took hold July 1. Rates for new loans doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

Under the Senate deal, undergraduates this fall could borrow at a 3.9 percent interest rate. Graduate students would have access to loans at 5.4 percent, and parents would be able to borrow at 6.4 percent.

But Warren said the federal government would still end up making $185 billion off the loans during the next decade.

“I just want to see us bring that down some,” she said. “I’m going to push for it now and I’m going to keep pushing for it.”

Markey echoed her comments. And on another issue, he questioned the wisdom of stand-your-ground self-defense laws following the Florida acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

The Florida law, passed in 2005, generally eliminated a person’s duty to retreat in the face of a serious physical threat. At least 21 states have a law similar to the one in Florida. Massachusetts has no such law.

Markey questioned whether the laws might embolden someone who is armed to pursue an unarmed person with potentially tragic results.

“I think it’s important to have that national discussion and begin the process of paring back those stand-your-ground laws,” he said.

Asked if she thought Zimmerman should face federal civil rights charges in the death of Martin, who was black, Warren noted that the Justice Department is considering the question and said states with stand-your-ground laws need to re-examine them.

“You have to think about what makes us safer,” she said. “Are those laws making us safer or are those laws putting us at greater risk? We want a safe country. We want a country not just where some of us are safe, but where all of our children are safe.”

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