On Student Loans, 'Obama Trying to Invent a Fight Where There Isn’t One,' Boehner Says

April 26, 2012 - 6:58 AM
Boehner Romney

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks at a news conference, March 12, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(CNSNews.com) - On Friday, the House of Representatives will vote on a bill to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate on federal student loans for one year, House Speaker John Boehner announced on Wednesday.

Unless Congress acts, the rate will double on July 1 -- a message President Obama has been spreading on college campuses this week.

“You know, this week the president’s traveling the country on the taxpayers’ dime, campaigning and trying to invent a fight where there isn’t one, and never has been one on this issue of student loans. We can and will fix the problem without a bunch of campaign-style theatrics," Boehner said.

"Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the aisle here on the Capitol have long agreed this was a problem that must be addressed."

Boehner said the Republican bill will pay for the lower interest rate on student loans "by eliminating a slush fund in the president's health care law."

He was referring to a section of the health care law -- the Prevention and Public Health Fund -- that gives the Health and Human Services Secretary billions of dollars to spend without congressional oversight. (As The New York Post reported on Monday, the Obama administration plans to spend the $8.3 billion of that "slush fund" money to temporarily restore Medicare Advantage funds so that seniors citizens in key markets don’t lose their trusted insurance program in the middle of Obama’s re-election bid.)

On Wednesday, Boehner said Obamacare is one of the reasons American small businesses are not hiring more recent college graduates, 50 percent of whom are either unemployed or underemployed.

“Listen, the rising cost of tuition is a serious one for students," Boehner said. "And what Washington shouldn’t be doing is exploiting the challenges that young Americans face for political gain. And it shouldn’t be sticking small businesses with a health care law that’s…making it more difficult for them to hire workers. Let’s fix the problems for young Americans, and leave the campaign theatrics for the fall.”

President Obama has been courting young voters this week by empathizing with them about the high cost of a college education and telling them to contact their elected representatives with the message, "Don’t double my rates."

The president even “slow-jammed” the student loan topic on the Jimmy Fallon show.

Obama's supporters, including the liberal activist group MoveOn.org, are helping him hype the student loan issue to fire up young voters.

In a message to supporters on Wednesday, MoveOn.org said "because of Republican obstruction in Congress, interest rates on college loans are set to double this July—pouring even more debt on a generation already drowning in student loans. President Obama is pushing Congress to stop it, but as usual Republicans have dug in their heels."

MoveOn.org said it is launching one of the biggest online ad campaigns in its history -- planning to put ads on the Facebook pages of every college student in America - "to warn them about this Armageddon of student debt."

MoveOn said it's already heard from young people who are "freaking out" about the possibility of their interest rate rising -- "and we're already working to make sure they call Congress, register to vote, and keep taking action on campus."

"Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of Republican strategists like the idea of another wave of young voter turnout like in 2008, and this Republican war on students gives us a chance to make it happen, if we can act fast," MoveOn.org said.

In the Senate, Democrats plan to move on a bill keeping student loan rates at 3.4 percent, but it would be paid for by increasing the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes of owners of some privately held corporations, including many lawyers' and doctors' practices,  the AP reported.