Because Republicans and Democrats actually agree on the end goal of freezing the student loan rate at its current level, it’s relatively easy to use these votes as a way to gauge the actual policy preferences of each party. Let me explain, both Rs and Ds agree to some extent that the government needs to work for the middle class. Rs might not be as explicit about it as Ds, but the wing of the party that isn’t way out of the mainstream recognizes that people actually like government programs that help them (they just don’t like government programs that use their tax dollars to help others).
Extending the student loan rates at their current levels will cost 6 billion. But since both parties want to spend that 6 billion we can finally draw a direct contrast in where the money will come from. Republicans want to eliminate a preventive health care fund that pays for AIDS/HIV screenings and obesity prevention programs, while Democrats want to close a tax loophole that allows small business professionals to collect income as profits instead of wages and thereby avoid payroll taxes. The provision is used mainly by lawyers and consultants.
The essential question here boils down to who ought to bear the burden of paying for the next generation of U.S. citizens to get a college education, lawyers and consultants, or the poor who would be the primary beneficiaries of the preventive health fund. In its most basic form I expect this same pattern to occur on issue after issue, whether its a question of paying for student loans, deficit reduction, or military spending.