Senate negotiators are making steady progress toward a framework agreement to avert a doubling of student loan rates set to occur July 1, top aides confirm.
While Senators have left town for the weekend, staffers continued discussions Friday with hopes of announcing a deal early next week. They have tentatively agreed to use a combination of items proposed in recent weeks by leaders in both parties to provide nearly $6 billion.
Included will be a proposal originally advanced by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to raise premiums paid by businesses for federal pension insurance--a plan that may be accepted by executives because it will be paired with new rules allowing them to lower pension liabilities, according to a top Senate Democratic aide.
One of a number of items proposed by Republicans last month will also be included, the aide said--though a GOP proposal to raise retirement contributions of federal employees appears to be off the table.
A Senate Republican aide confirmed that members of both parties were engaged on the issue and that discussions have been productive. The aides asked for anonymity to discuss closed-door negotiations.
The progress has been taking place quietly even as President Obama and top House Republicans on Thursday traded blows over the student loan impasse.
Without Congressional action, rates for federally subsized student loans will rise from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on July, raising the costs of a loan for an estimated 7 million students.
President Obama, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Congressional leaders in both parties have said for weeks that they favor freezing the rates for another year but have been unable to agree on how to pay for doing so.
Still, the agreement on the end goal has led all involved to assume a deal was inevitable but would not be announcemed until the final days before the July 1 deadline.
Bboth parties have chided one another for obstinacy for weeks.
Republicans have complained that Obama has not been more engaged in the discussions, but White House officials have made clear that they will sign off on a deal worked out by Senate Democrats.
Likewise, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is aware of the negotiations but not personally involved, a House aide said.