President Barack Obama accused congressional Republicans on Thursday of "playing chicken" ahead of a looming deadline to pass legislation or see some student loan rates double come July 1.
"This is all about the economy," Obama told a crowd of students packed into the White House's East Room. "This should be a no-brainer."
Republican leaders charge that Obama has failed to answer their detailed proposals for how to pay for legislation to stop interest rates on a popular kind of student loan from jumping from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. The lawmakers have offered to defray the bill's estimated $6 billion cost with savings proposed in the president's own budget.
"He's missing in action. He has yet to offer a concrete solution," Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday in a speech on the Senate floor.
Obama, who has crisscrossed the country warning young voters about the potential rate hike, asked his audience to pressure Congress "to do the right thing.""I understand that members of both parties say they want to get this done, and there are conversations taking place, but they haven't done it yet. And we've got to keep the pressure on," he said.
"If this warning sounds familiar, we've been talking about this for months. Congress has had the time to fix this for months. It's part of the reason why everybody here looks impatient," Obama said, drawing laughter from his audience.
"This issue didn't come out of nowhere; it's been looming for months. But we've been stuck watching Congress play chicken with another deadline," the president said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing that the administration was in discussions with members of Congress, including Republicans, to resolve the impasse. Carney's comments drew immediate denials from the offices of House Speaker John Boehner and McConnell. Carney could not say with whom the administration was negotiating, but stressed that "in the end, we will get this done."