House Passes Student Bill, Dismissing Veto Threat

The House ignored a veto threat from President Obama and voted 215 to 195 on Friday to prevent a doubling of student loan rates.

House Speaker John Boehner took to the House floor to passionately chastise Democrats for reviving the "war on women" rhetoric. Photo: Speaker John Boehner/ Flickr

The House of Representatives passed a bill that funds cheaper student loans by cutting a preventive health care program – renewing the battle in which House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) accused Democrats of manufacturing a war on women.

The bill was passed by a vote of 215 to 195, with 30 Republicans truing to oppose the bill, and 13 Democrats voting in its favor. The measure may have been broken if Democrats had stayed together. The interest rate for federally subsidized student loans is scheduled to jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent for some 7.4 million students on July 1 if Congress does not act, The Huffington Post reported.

Earlier this week Republicans had voted for a budget that allowed the rate to go up, but under public pressure offered a plan Wednesday to preserve the rate by cutting the Prevention and Public Health Fund created in President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Republicans say the move would save $6 billion.

President Barack Obama threatened to veto the bill, citing a poison-pill amendment, even though his veto would play directly into an obvious trap laid by Republican political strategist Karl Rove.

“This is a politically-motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America’s college students deserves,” the administration said Friday in a policy statement (PDF), threatening a veto the bill if it lands on Obama’s desk.

According to Raw Story, the President issued a series of executive orders aimed to allow graduate students to cap their loan repayments to 10 percent of their income. His student loan push is what landed Obama on late night television recently with host Jimmy Fallon.

“This is something Michelle and I know about firsthand,” Obama told a crowd of students in North Carolina this week. “I just wanted everybody here to understand — I didn’t just read about this. I didn’t just get some talking points about this. I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this. Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes. Like I said, we didn’t come from wealthy families.”

House Speaker John Boehner accused Democrats of being the ones to play political games, adding they were making the student loan battle part of a phony war on women.

“How in the world did we ever get here? Think about this — a fight being picked over an issue that everyone knew was going to get resolved,” Boehner said. “Nobody wants to see student interest rates go up.”

House Speaker continued: “My God, do we have to fight over everything?” he asked. “And now we’re going to have a fight over women’s health. Give me a break.”

He went on: “This is the latest plank in the so-called war on women entirely created by my colleagues across the aisle for political gain.To accuse us of wanting to cut women’s health is absolutely not true,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is beneath us, this is beneath the dignity of this House.”

However, Democrats responded that the political maneuvering was coming from the GOP, and maintained that Republicans were indeed trying to cut a program that would help thousands of women.

“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-Calif.). “They’re not looking for a better way. They’re just looking for a way to cover their rear ends.”

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