Thursday August 08, 2013 | 06:46 PM

WASHINGTON –Sen. Angus King will attend his first bill signing at the White House on Friday when President Obama adds his blessing to a student loan interest rate bill co-authored by the Maine independent.

The bill removes Congress from the process of setting interest rates for federally backed student loans and, instead, ties the rates to the 10-year Treasury note.

Absent an agreement, rates for subsidized Stafford undergraduate loans doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1 while rates for unsubsidized, graduate and parental loans remained constant. Under the legislation being signed by Obama, rates will retroactively drop to 3.9 percent for undergraduates, 5.4 percent for graduate students and 6.4 percent for parents borrowing on behalf of their children.

King began discussing options for a bipartisan compromise with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., soon after the Senate rejected both Democratic and Republican proposals on student loans in June. The group of negotiators then expanded to include Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma as well as Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware.

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa then helped King, Manchin and Carper woo additional Democrats worried that rates could rise too high under a market-based system. To address those concerns, the authors added language capping undergraduate rates at 8.25 percent.

Obama is slated to sign the bill Friday afternoon

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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