WASHINGTON -- Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Sunday defended the House of Representatives' advancing a bill that pays for lower student loan interest rates by reducing funds for a preventative health care fund -- a move that the White House, in a veto threat, had said would particularly impact women.
Before the House vote on Friday, the White House issued a statement saying, "Women, in particular, will benefit from this Prevention Fund, which would provide for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer. This is a politically-motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America's college students deserves. If the President is presented with H.R. 4628, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."
In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley," Boehner dismissed the White House's characterization as the president's trying to "politicize this for his own reelection" and "picking a fight where one doesn't exist."
"This is just nonsense. There's no women's health issue here," said Boehner. "And I'll guarantee you that they've not spent a dime out of this fund dealing with anything to do with women's health."
The House passed the bill by a largely party-line vote of 215 to 195. The interest rate for federally subsidized student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent by July 1 if Congress does not act first.
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, support keeping the interest rate at its current level. But while Republicans favor cutting the preventative health fund -- something Boehner has previously called a "slush fund" -- to offset the cost of the lower interest rate, Democrats would end a tax break they've dubbed the "Gingrich/Edwards Loophole," which allows certain millionaires to avoid paying Medicare taxes.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the higher interest rate on federally subsidized student loans scheduled to kick in on July 1.