Congress is starting to see some light at the end of the student loan impasse tunnel.
Both the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate today announced that a deal is almost complete to avoid student loan rates from doubling on July 1. The deal, which both Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced today, is contingent on the House Republican leadership getting their members on board.
"We are moving toward completion this week of both the extension of the student loan rates at the current level for another year," McConnell said today after his party's weekly lunch, "Senator Reid and I have an understanding that I think would be acceptable to the House."
Reid said he too believes they've come together and are at a "good place" with a deal but that the final details, which neither side was willing to divulge yet, would have to come together by tomorrow.
"We basically have the student loan issue worked out," Reid said. "The next question is, what do we put it on to make sure we can complete it? There are a number of suspects we have, but right now we don't have that worked out yet. "
The student loan deal may be coupled legislatively with the highway bill extension, which negotiators intimated might be the more efficient way to pass the deal, avoiding numerous votes and passing both with one fell swoop.
"We're very close to having everything done," Reid added. "But until we get everything done, nothing's done. There's been a lot of progress made. I appreciate the House Republicans working so well, and I know we can pass a bill. But, as I told my caucus, everyone has to be very, very patient now, and wait and see how the process works out. "
Both Republicans and Democrats have long believed the subsidized Stafford loan rates should not be doubled from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent and agreed the current rates should be extended for at least another year. But getting both sides to agree on how to pay for the bill was the source of disagreement.
The nuts and bolts of the deal are still being worked out, both sides said, so they would not yet reveal the details of the compromise yet.