WASHINGTON — A bipartisan Senate coalition on Wednesday blocked a Democratic proposal to retroactively cut interest rates on higher education loans in half, leaving any student loan rescue in doubt and laying bare divisions among Democrats about how to resolve the dispute.
The bill pushed by the Democratic leadership would have renewed a subsidized 3.4 percent interest rate on Stafford loans, whose rates doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1. But a bipartisan group of senators — led by Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia; Angus King, independent of Maine; and Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina — had forged what they saw as a compromise measure that would have tied student loan rates to federal borrowing costs.
Democratic leaders refused to give the coalition a vote on its plan, and Mr. Manchin and Mr. King voted with Republicans to filibuster the Democratic plan, which received 52 votes, 8 short of the number needed to break the delay. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, switched his vote to “no” for parliamentary reasons, leaving the final tally 51 to 49.
The student loan issue was supposed to be a political bonanza for Democrats, who were convinced that Republicans would yield on legislation extending the subsidized rate. Instead, it has revealed the kinds of divisions usually on display with Republicans — splitting rank-and-file Democrats from an emerging centrist group that has become increasingly willing to buck its leaders.