House GOP: Obama student-loan event ‘reeks of desperation’

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House Republicans accused President Obama of “stunning cynicism” Wednesday for planning an event at the White House with college students to highlight a potential increase in student-loan rates this summer, reprising an issue from last year’s re-election campaign.

“It’s obvious that the White House would love nothing more than to change the subject from its growing list of scandals, but scheduling this PR stunt reeks of desperation,” said Brendan Buck, spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, in a blog post.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Obama will meet with college students Friday at the White House to urge Congress to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1. He said Mr. Obama’s budget proposal includes a guarantee to prevent loan rates from rising.

“The president will call on Congress to pass a solution that truly helps keep college affordable for middle-class families and students, and he looks forward to working with them in the days ahead to get there,” Mr. Carney said.

Mr. Buck said it was “a worthy policy goal” and that House Republicans have already approved such a plan last week.

“And at the same time, the Senate, controlled by the president’s party, has made no effort to pass a similar plan,” Mr. Buck said. “Picking a fight out of thin air where there’s policy agreement isn’t going to get the White House out of trouble, and it certainly doesn’t do anything to help students facing a looming rate hike.”

The rate on new subsidized Stafford loans is set to double to 6.8% on July 1 if Congress doesn’t act. The House legislation would set the interest rates on federal student loans to the government’s borrowing costs, and allow them to vary annually. The White House has threatened a veto of the measure, arguing that it doesn’t guarantee low rates.

Mr. Carney said the House legislation “unfortunately does not meet the test.”

Last year, Mr. Obama campaigned on the same issue, while Republicans at first rejected his proposal because of its $6 billion cost. They relented after Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he favored a one-year freeze in the rate.

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