Saturday August 10, 2013 | 12:38 PM

Barack Obama, Charlotte Etier; Brian Schatz, Angus King, Richard Durbin, Joe Courtney, John Kline

WASHINGTON – The student loan interest rate bill signed into law Friday by President Obama represented both Sen. Angus King’s highest-profile policy victory to date and the Maine independent's biggest split with Democrats.

“I fully expected to be reined in at some point, to get a call from some of the Democratic leadership saying, ‘What are you doing?’” King said Friday prior to the White House ceremony. “And that didn’t happen. That just did not happen.”

(Check out this weekend’s Maine Sunday Telegram for more on how often King’s stance aligned with top Democrats and Republicans during the first seven months of his Senate career.)

An independent who caucuses with the Democrats, King and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., were the point people at least intially in trying to convince a bunch of highly skeptical Democrats that their bipartisan student loan rate reform proposal was a good one. The new system allows the financial market – not Congress – to determine interest rates, and that was a huge concern for Democrats concerned that rates would rise too high.

Rates will drop for all borrowers this fall under the new law, with undergrad borrowers paying 3.9 percent, grad students paying 5.4 percent and parents 6.4 percent. Those rates will be locked in for the life of the loan, but future rates on new loans will vary, depending on the 10-year Treasury note.

In the end, 16 Senate Democrats, one Republican and the other independent who caucuses with the Democrats still voted against the bill. But as those critics pointed out during debate, the bill did not address the larger issue of how the rising costs of higher education are forcing college students to go deeper into debt.

Obama noted that during the signing ceremony on Friday, saying “our job is not done.”

“So I'm going to be looking forward to engaging this same coalition to see if we can continue to take additional steps to reform our higher education system,” the president said.

King’s role in the small group that brokered the deal has earned him praise from some of his colleagues.

“During the student loan debate, Angus showed the value of having in the Senate a governor who is a practical problem solver,” Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, one of the key Republican negotiators in the group, said Friday in a statement. “Working across party lines, he helped put in place policy that makes it cheaper and simpler for all students getting loans and ends the annual political game-playing in Washington about what the interest rates will be.”

About this Blog

Subscribe to the
Maine on the Hill RSS

About the Author

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.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or

Subscribe to the
Maine on the Hill RSS

Previous entries

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013


September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)
Prefer to respond privately? Email us here.