Today, the Senate will hold a vote on the Dem version of the proposal to extend low interest rates for federally-funded student loans. In the next few weeks, the Senate will hold a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and is strongly supported by President Obama.

Does anyone know what Mitt Romney’s position is on these two issues?

Yes, Romney has called for the extension of low interest rates. But both sides agree on this point. What’s getting lost in the discussion is that he hasn’t taken a position on the actual dispute between the two parties over the extension — how to pay for it. Nor has Romney taken a position on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was broadly opposed by Senate Republicans two years ago. Both these issues have far reaching importance to two of the major consistuencies that are currently being fought over in this election — young voters and women.

As it happens, the public sides with Dems on both of them. A new National Journal poll asked specifically about the core dispute over the student loan extension, and 50 percent support the Dem approach of paying for it with tax hikes on some businesses. Only 34 percent support the GOP approach of paying for it out of a preventive health fund that’s part of Obamacare. Independents support the Dem approach by 49-31. And young voters — the same ones Romney keeps telling us should vote for him out of their own self interest — support the Dem plan 58-28.

The poll also found that 52 percent trust Dems on the issues raised by the Paycheck Fairness Act, while only 36 percent trust Republicans. Women trust Dems by 59-29.

On an Obama campaign conference call this morning, spokesman Ben LaBolt called on Romney to take a position on the Act. He pointed out that the Romney campaign had yet to say whether he would have signed the Lily Ledbetter Act, and noted that the Paycheck Fairness Act picks up where Lily Ledbetter left off, by making it easier to challenge pay discrimination in new ways.

“This is just one more issue where we’re waiting for the Romney campaign to get back to us,” LaBolt said.

These two issues go right to the main arguments driving this presidential camapign — over how, or whether, government programs should act to combat the free market’s imperfections and to foster opportunity and social mobility, and over the priorities that should dictate how we pay for them. Will Romney detail his positions on either?


UPDATE: One other point. In commenting on the Lily Ledbetter Act, the Romney campaign has said he supports “pay equity” in principle, which is another reason why the question of whether he supports the Paycheck Fairness Act really should be asked.