The pitched political battle over student loans isn’t going away. On Friday, the White House threatened to veto a bill to keep interest rates on a popular kind of loan from doubling come July 1 because the Republican-crafted legislation pays for it by tapping a special fund in President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law. The House ignored the veto threat and passed the bill anyway on Friday, with a 215-195 vote.
Obama criss-crossed the country this week in support of legislation that would keep more money in the pockets of cash-strapped college students. Republicans initially resisted the idea, but Mitt Romney quickly moved to neutralize the issue as a political weapon by embracing it in principle. House Republicans adapted by finding a clever “pay-for” solution to defray the cost of the legislation (lower interest rates = lower payments = lower revenue for the government). They chose the Prevention and Public Health Fund included in what all sides have now agreed to call “Obamacare,” which Republicans have vowed to repeal.
“The Administration strongly supports serious, bipartisan efforts to prevent interest rates from doubling for over 7 million college students in the coming year,” Obama’s Office of Management and Budget said in a “statement of administration policy,” the formal mechanism for announcing where the president stands on legislation.
“Unfortunately, rather than finding common ground on a way to pay for this critical policy, H.R. 4628 includes an attempt to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, created to help prevent disease, detect it early, and manage conditions before they become severe,” OMB said, warning that “women, in particular” would suffer. “This is a politically-motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America’s college students deserves. If the President is presented with H.R. 4628, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” it said.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s office pounced. “The president is so desperate to fake a fight that he’s willing to veto a bill to help students over a slush fund that he advocated cutting in his own budget. It’s as simple as this: Republicans are acting to help college students and the president is now getting in the way,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck.
Obama’s budget, unveiled earlier this year, calls for tapping into the same fund to cover other programs. The Senate’s Democratic majority, which will likely kill the Republican bill, has proposed covering the nearly $6 billion tab for the student loan proposal by raising taxes on wealthy Americans.