BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Scott Brown joined other Senate Republicans yesterday to derail a Democratic bill aimed at keeping interest rates on federal college loans from doubling July 1, prompting criticism from Democrats in his home state who said he was hurting middle-class families.
The Massachusetts Republican and the state's Democratic Party also traded jabs over his fundraising efforts in New York City and his call for his chief Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, to release law school applications and personnel files from the universities where she's taught.
Yesterday's vote on the student loan bill, largely on partisan lines, came a day after Brown said he supported a one-year extension of the current 3.4 percent interest rate on federal student loans. Brown said it's time to come up with a bipartisan solution.
"The job market is dismal and the cost of getting a college education is out of control," Brown said. "We should be working together on a solution that prevents these rates from skyrocketing."
Massachusetts Democrats said Brown's vote showed he was standing with the national Republican Party, not middle-class Massachusetts families.
"Senate Democrats put forth a measure to keep student loan rates low, but Scott Brown joined Senate Republicans to block it," said Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh.
Both Brown and his chief Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, say they support extending the lower rate for another year. Brown has proposed paying for the extension by reducing what he called "improper payments made by the federal government" including payments sent to the wrong recipient or incorrect amounts sent to the right recipients.
The Senate vote was largely symbolic because the Democratic bill had no chance of approval by the GOP-led House. Tuesday's vote was 52-45 in favor of starting debate on the Democratic legislation — eight votes shy of the 60 needed to move the bill forward.
Senate Republicans said they favor preventing the interest rate increase but oppose how Democrats would pay for it: Boosting Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on high-earning stockholders of some privately owned corporations.
The cost of extending the lower rate for a year is $6 billion.
Republicans said Democrats were trying to score political points before both sides agree on a compromise deal. Neither party wants to be blamed for raising student loan interest rates in an election year.
In calling for Warren to release her law school applications and university personnel files, Brown said he wanted to settle questions about her claims of Native American ancestry.
"Serious questions have been raised about the legitimacy of Elizabeth Warren's claims to Native American ancestry and whether it was appropriate for her to assume minority status as a college professor," Brown said.
Warren's campaign spokeswoman said Brown was "shamelessly attempting to divert attention from his record on the issues that really matter in this election, like the cost of student loans."
Harvard Law School professor Charles Fried said Monday that any suggestion that Warren enjoyed an affirmative action advantage in her hiring as a full professor is "false" and that Warren was recruited because of her expertise in bankruptcy and commercial law.
Warren said last week that she listed herself as having Native American heritage in law school directories because she hoped to meet people with similar roots.
Brown noted that earlier this year he authorized the release of his military service record documenting the more than three decades he has served in the Army National Guard.
Also Tuesday, Democrats called on Brown to disclose the members of a committee hosting a New York City fundraising event for him on Saturday. A list of out-of-state fundraising events for Brown includes one listed as an "Evening Reception with New York Finance Committee" in New York City.
Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh said Brown is refusing to "come clean" about the committee.
A campaign spokesman for Brown said all of his fundraising information is disclosed as required by the Federal Election Commission.
Brown has received more than $620,000 in itemized individual donations from New York this election cycle, including contributions from the financial services and health care sectors.
Brown has also collected about five times as Warren from political action committees.