The U.S. House of Representatives voted, 215-195, to block scheduled increases in student loan interest rates.
Announcing the vote Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) attempted to shift the blame for the interest hike on House Democrats and undercut what he called a "campaign issue" for President Obama. Speaker and the Republican Party charge that the President inappropriately used public funds for travel to three college campuses where he encouraged Congress to block the interest rate hike.
"Back in 2007 a Democrat-controlled Congress put in place a law that would double student loan interest rates this year," Boehner wrote in his press statement announcing today's vote. He was referring to a bill, signed by then-President Bush, that lowered the rate from 3.4 to 6.8 percent, with the provision that rates would return to the top level this year.
Speaker Boehner proposed paying for the $6 billion a year price tag by taking money from what he called "one of the slush funds" tied to President Obama's health care program. He plans to re-allocate some $11.9 billion targeted for women's health programs, using $5.9 billion to keep the student loan interest rates at 3.4% for one year.
In proposed Senate legislation, the rate increase would be put off for one year and would be paid for by adjusting tax rules that allow some individuals to avoid paying Medicare payroll taxes.
The White House has threatened to veto any bill that would repeal health care programs to pay for the lower student loan interest rates.