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Peterson, Walz vote for GOP student loan interest rate plan

The GOP plan would pay for a lowered student loan interest rate by cutting funds to a preventative health care fund.

WASHINGTON — Democrats Collin Peterson and Tim Walz broke with their party and voted for a House GOP student loan interest rate plan on Friday. The bill passed 215-195, with only 13 Democrats voting in favor.

The GOP’s $5.9 billion bill would prevent the 3.4 percent interest rate on Stafford loans from doubling on July 1, but it’s paid for by cutting from a preventative health care fund in President Obama’s health care reform law. The White House threatened to veto the bill should it pass both the House and Senate (where Democrats are in the majority and the plan is dead on arrival).

Democrats had hoped to pressure Republicans into supporting the lower rate, launching an offensive earlier in the week that saw President Obama travel to colleges around the country to rally support. Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney backed the rate on the Monday and Senate Republicans did the same later in the week, calling for spending cuts to pay for the lower rate.

Democrats in the Senate have called for closing tax loopholes to pay for the lowered rate; Republicans in the House wrote a bill to take from what they called a health care reform “slush fund” instead.

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Peterson and Walz were the only members of the delegation to vote against their party on the GOP plan.

Devin Henry can be reached at