- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2013

Not wanting to talk Friday about Benghazi, the IRS or the other scandals engulfing his administration, President Obama surrounded himself with college students and called on House Republicans to fix a problem GOP lawmakers say they have already addressed.

Calling a college education an “economic necessity,” Mr. Obama said Congress needs to act before July 1 to prevent rates on federal Stafford loans from doubling to 6.8 percent.

“We can’t keep saddling young people with more and more debt just as they’re starting out in life,” the president said at the event in the White House Rose Garden.

The House last week approved a bill that would prevent student loan rates from doubling on July 1, while tying the rate to changes in interest rates more generally in the future; the Democratic-led Senate has yet to vote on such legislation. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, Minnesota Republican, said the House measure is “largely based on a proposal put forth by the president earlier this year.”

“Not only will this responsible bill prevent interest rates from doubling on July 1st, it will also reduce rates immediately for most borrowers — just like the president wanted,” Mr. Kline said in a statement. He accused Mr. Obama of politicizing the issue instead of trying to work cooperatively across the aisle.

“Instead of holding campaign-style events, the president should urge his Senate colleagues to put forward their own plan to solve the problem,” Mr. Kline said. “Senate inaction is the only thing blocking the long-term solution the president wants and the American people deserve.”

Mr. Obama said the House bill doesn’t lock in low loan rates, and could end up costing some students more money than current law.

Both the White House and Republican proposals would tie interest rates for student loans to the yield on 10-year Treasury bills. The GOP bill sets interest rates higher than the Obama plan for subsidized Stafford loans — 0.93 percent above the 10-year Treasury rate vs. 2.50 percent above the 10-year Treasury rate.

“The House bill isn’t smart and it’s not fair,” the president said.

House Republicans and Mr. Obama tussled over the same issue last summer during the presidential election. The House eventually relented and approved the bill sought by the president, but only for one year.

Republican leaders accused Mr. Obama of creating a phony crisis in an attempt to draw attention away from the series of scandals that have sidetracked his agenda since the beginning of his second term.

Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the House bill provides a “market-based variable interest rate” reflecting the president’s budget proposal. He accused Mr. Obama of holding “a campaign stunt to try to score political points.”

“The differences between the House plan and the president’s are small, and there’s no reason they cannot be overcome quickly,” Mr. Boehner said. “With time so short and the differences between our proposals so slight, today’s event was misguided and deeply disappointing. A president who promised young people he would reject petty partisanship, today practiced it himself. If he really wants to shield students from higher rates, he should work with his former colleagues in the Senate to act. That’s what our students deserve.”

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