President Obama keeps tossing ideas to curb rising college tuition costs against the wall in the hope that a few will stick and re-energize young voters ahead of the November election, the Republican chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee contends.
"That's a plea for the youth vote ... His proposals are all over the map," Rep. John Kline of Minnesota told Washington Times reporters and editors during an interview Wednesday.
The 64-year-old former Marine, responsible for carrying the "nuclear football" during the Carter and Reagan administrations, finds himself at the center of several contentious issues as he leads the Republican charge for education reform and continues to play a key role in major labor disputes.
Both education and union issues could be better addressed, Mr. Kline said, with a Republican in the White House, and he hopes the party will soon settle on a candidate and begin preparing for what is sure to be a tough fight against the Obama political machine.
"I think it's better sooner than later," he said, adding that the party's chances could be hurt by the intraparty nomination battle involving former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum.
"One of the bad things about the process is exactly what we've seen happen, that the candidates turn on each other," said Mr. Kline, whose state was among three that went for Mr. Santorum on Tuesday. "The target here is to replace President Obama."
Republicans cite rampant government overreach as the chief reason Mr. Obama must be ousted from the White House, and nowhere is that overreach more evident, Mr. Kline said, than the administration's recent initiatives on higher education.
Over the past year, the Obama administration has taken a number of steps - some through executive order - to make college cheaper.
Most recently, Mr. Obama proposed tying some federal financial aid to limits on tuition increases, threatening to cut off government money to universities that continue to raise rates each year. Mr. Kline, echoing fellow Republicans, said that idea "isn't going anywhere" and represents a heavy-handed government attempt to "put price controls onto universities."
The White House has also proposed billions of dollars in additional higher-education spending, and, in the early days of the administration, grabbed full control of the entire student loan system by instituting direct lending through the Education Department. Mr. Obama has also put forth new income-based repayment plans for federal loans, pushed Congress to keep interest rates at a record low, and guaranteed students that all of their government loans will be forgiven after 20 years, regardless of how much has been repaid.
"I don't know how much more stuff he can put out there," Mr. Kline said. "There's no explanation of where the money is going to come from."
In Wednesday's wide-ranging interview, Mr. Kline, who has led House Republican pushes against contentious decisions by the National Labor Relations Board, also took a few shots at the board and the Obama administration's Cabinet as even more partisan than usual.
"There are so many challenges coming out of the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board," he said. "They're looking for every avenue any way they can to make it easier [for] unions."
He cited as the worst example of "gigantic overreach" the NLRB's dispute with Boeing over a plan to build a plant in right-to-work South Carolina. Even though Boeing planned to keep open its unionized plant in Washington state, the NLRB tried to block the South Carolina plant as an illegal punishment for previous strikes in Washington.
"The Boeing decision really helped underscore the problem," Mr. Kline said. "Because people across the country could look at that and go, 'That doesn't make any sense. Really?' "
House Republicans, including those on his committee, have passed dozens of bills trying to rein in the NLRB, but the Democrat-led Senate is refusing to act on them, he said.
"We did pass a bill in the House, and oh, some 30-odd bills," he explained. "They're just sitting over at the Senate. That's a problem. There's no questions about it."
But he's not giving up, despite the Senate's perceived stalling tactics.
"We can't force the Senate to agree with my position," Mr. Kline said. "But I think it is important that we continue to try to legislatively make corrections."
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