- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2012

As part of his continued efforts to woo younger voters, President Obama will squeeze in a talk to students and parents at an Arlington, Va., high school Friday, one day before he officially kicks off his re-election campaign at rallies at universities in Ohio and Virginia.

Mr. Obama plans to speak to Washington-Lee High School seniors and juniors, as well as some of their parents, about “the importance of preventing interest rates from doubling on student loans,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday.

The president has called on Congress to take action to prevent the doubling of interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans, which are set to go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.

The Senate has a procedural vote scheduled on the issue Tuesday.

“We intend to keep up the pressure on Congress to act,” Mr. Carney said. “We remain hopeful that congressional Republicans will realize now is not the time to refight old political battles and get serious about working with us to ensure that more than 7 million students do not see their interest rates double.”

Republicans accuse Democrats of drumming up a fake election-year fight to distract young people from the high unemployment levels and bleak jobs outlook. Both sides are committed to ensuring that the student loan rates won’t go up but are at odds on how to pay for the $6 billion cost of doing so.

“Fearful that young people might start to wonder why they need relief in the first place, Democrats have turned the college loan issue into yet another fake election-year fight,” Sen. Mitch McConnell said Thursday in a statement. “The goal is to distract young people from the fact that they’re suffering disproportionately under this president’s policies.”

The House Republicans version of the bill, which passed on a bipartisan vote in late April, would slash a catch-all prevention fund that states and cities are using for anti-obesity campaigns among other things, from President Obama’s 2010 health care law and use the savings over the next decade to pay for a one-year extension of the student-loan subsidies.

The White House has vowed to veto the House-passed bill, arguing the GOP proposal would cut programs aimed at women’s health, but has not provided their own plan to pay continued loan subsidies.

The Senate Democrats’ version would cut tax breaks for oil and gas companies — an option that has been repeatedly defeated in both chambers.