Lawmakers Play Politics with Student Loan Rates

It has been a dizzying week for the topic of rising student loan debt, with President Obama touring college campuses and pushing for Congress to stop a July 1 doubling of rates on federal Stafford loans.
House Republicans today responded with the approval of the much-sought extension of the 3.4 percent rate on loans that affects nearly 8 million students.
However, their method of funding the extension of the lower rate is to cut from a preventive health care program that is part of Obama’s controversial health care overhaul.
House Speaker John Boehner held a press conference yesterday to respond to the President’s campaign-like push for lower student loan rates, accusing him of playing politics and creating a political fight that doesn’t exist.
Democrats today quickly pounced on the approved House measure, accusing the GOP of trying to score political points.
“They’re using the student loan issue to drive their agenda. I find that very cynical. I find that in fact quite repulsive,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California.
The White House threatened to veto the House bill, and House Democrats argued that the $11.9 billion health prevention program, which has already been cut from $16 billion, covers such important procedures as cancer screenings, child immunizations and programs designed to help people quit smoking or eat better.
Republicans had approved earlier a budget that allowed the rate to double to 6.8 percent. But they felt public pressure to maintain the rate by cutting the Prevention and Public Health Fund created in Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Republicans say the measure approved today would save $6 billion dollars to pay for the one-year extension of the lower student loan rate.
The House passed the measure by a vote of 215 to 195, with 30 Republicans opposing the bill, and 13 Democrats voting in favor.

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