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House defies Obama to pass student loan bill

GOP needs Democratic support to push bill through

- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2012

Defying a veto threat from President Obama, the House voted Friday to extend federal student loan subsidies for another year, and cover the added cost by slashing a prevention fund from Democrats' health bill.

The 215-195 vote puts the House GOP on a collision court with the Senate, where Democrats also want to extend the subsidies — but would rather raise taxes on a type of income from business partnerships to fund the new spending.

"My God, do we have to fight about everything?" said House Speaker John A. Boehner in an angry speech from the House floor accusing Democrats of trying to create a political fight where there is general agreement.

But Mr. Boehner had to rely on Democrats to get the bill through, after 30 Republicans balked and said they couldn't support it.

In all, 13 Democrats voted along with 202 Republicans for the measure, which would extend into the next school year a 3.4 percent interest rate for government-backed loans. Without the legislation, interest rates will rise to 6.8 percent on July 1.

Hours before the House vote, however, the White House issued a veto threat, saying that while it wanted to see the loan rates extended, it wouldn't accept cuts to Mr. Obama's health care law as the way of paying for the $6 billion cost of the new spending.

"This is a politically-motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America's college students deserves," the White House said in its statement of policy.

The administration said the lower interest rates can save a college student about $1,000 over the life of his or her loans. The average student graduating with loans in 2010 left with $25,250 in debt, though with interest their total payments they'll end up paying far more over the life of the loans.

Cumulative student loan debt topped $1 trillion last year.

Democrats said the GOP was flip-flopping on the issue. Their budget didn't call for an extension of the subsidies, but after Mr. Obama spent this week traveling to three college campuses and demanding the government aid continue, House Republicans quickly announced they would speed the bill to the floor.

"This bill is shameless," said Rep. Sander Levin, Michigan Democrat.

Some conservatives questioned the entire direction of the debate.

Rep. Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican who voted against the proposal, said any money Congress can free up right now should be used to reduce the deficit, not to fund new spending.

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