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Obama touts transportation, student loans; GOP hits economy, health care

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President Obama, in his weekly radio address, highlighted a bill he signed into law Friday that will provide more money for transportation projects and prevent interest rates for student loans from doubling, opting to stray from the two subjects that have dominated the headlines in recent days — the economy and health care.

The bill paves the way for more than $100 billion to be spent on transportation projects over the next two years, and will keep Stafford loan interest rates at 3.4 percent for colleges students — rates that would have doubled absent action from Congress.

"Our mission isn't just to put people back to work — it's to rebuild an economy where that work pays; an economy in which everyone who works hard has the chance to get ahead," Mr. Obama said. "For months, I've been calling on Congress to reform and expand the financial aid that's offered to students. I've been asking them to help us give two million Americans the opportunity to learn the skills that businesses in their area are looking for — right now — through partnerships between community colleges and employers."

Meanwhile, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, New York Republican, put the issues of the economy and health care front and center in the Republican response to the president's address. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the economy added about 80,000 jobs in June — a number well below forecasters' estimates and one that left the national unemployment rate unchanged at 8.2 percent.

"The American people know what has to be done — get Washington out of the way, empower individuals and small businesses, let them flourish — but the president still refuses to change course," Ms. Buerkle said. "[The president is] doubling down on policies that are holding us back and making things worse, starting with his health care law, which is driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers."

While the Republican-controlled House has voted many times to repeal President Obama's health care overhaul, the Supreme Court's recent ruling upholding the law under Congress's taxing authority has the GOP champing at the bit to put their Democratic colleagues on the record as either voting for the bill — and, Republicans argue, a massive tax increase — or against the president's signature domestic achievement.

The House has scheduled to begin debating repeal on the floor Tuesday, with a vote tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.

"This health care law just flies in the face of what America is supposed to be, and repealing it would revitalize our economy and the values upon which our country was founded," Ms. Buerkle said in prepared remarks. "Then we would finally be able to pursue a common-sense, step-by-step approach that protects Americans' access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost."

Ms. Buerkle also said the House plans to take action to prevent scheduled tax increases from taking place on Jan. 1.

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