The Washington Times - May 4, 2012, 03:44PM

Republicans next week will grill Health and Human Services Department officials over a controversial prevention fund the GOP wants to slash to pay for keeping student loan rates low.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday will focus at least in part on the fund states and cities are using for anti-obesity and smoking cessation campaigns, among other things. Norris Cochran, a deputy assistant secretary in the department’s budget division, will testify.

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President Obama has repeatedly attacked cut to the fund as harmful to women’s health care. As recently as Friday morning, Mr. Obama told high school students in Northern Virginia repeated the claim, one that Republicans, as well as several outside organizations, dispute.

But prominent Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Rep. Darrell Issa from California have assailed the Centers for Disease Control for using the prevention fund, created as part of Mr. Obama’s 2010 health care law,  as a “slush fund” for pet projects aimed at changing state and local law.

“While I strongly support the wellness and prevention mission of the CDC,” said Sen. Collins, “I also support the safeguards Congress has put in place on the use of federal funds to protect against the misuse of tax dollars.  Every dollar spent on inappropriate or illegal activities is a dollar that didn’t go towards saving lives and improving health.”

Others have questioned how the anti-obesity fund are being used. In Nashville, Tennessee, the city’s health department told residents in one neighborhood they could get free pet spaying, neutering, rabies shots and other services as part of a $7.5 million grant associated with the fund.

Earlier this week, independent watchdog group Factcheck.org said Mr. Obama was “greatly exaggerating” his claim that women in particular would benefit from the prevention fund that the House GOP proposes to repeal to pay for the student-loan subsidies.