04/26/2012 01:06 pm ET Updated Apr 26, 2012

Nancy Pelosi Ties 'War On Women' To Student Loan Debate

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Democratic leaders have found another venue to hit Republicans for their so-called war on women: the debate over student loan costs.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday slammed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for proposing on Wednesday to keep down the costs of student loan interest rates by pulling money from what he called "one of the slush funds in the president's health care law." He was referring to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which contains billions of dollars aimed at encouraging people to take better care of themselves, thereby saving money down the road.

Student loan rates are set to double to 6.8 percent in July. Democrats have proposed covering the estimated $6 billion cost by closing a tax loophole that lets certain wealthy people avoid paying Medicare taxes, while Republicans have settled on nixing the preventative health fund. The House is set to vote on the GOP plan on Friday. Democratic leaders are whipping their members to oppose it.

"He's calling it a slush fund," Pelosi said of Boehner's proposal during a press conference. "Well, it may be a slush fund to him, but it's survival to women. It's survival to women. That just goes to show you what a luxury he thinks it is to have good health. We do not agree."

Pelosi wasn't the only top Democrat to tie the student loan debate to Democratic messaging on Republicans' "war on women" -- a theme likely to stick around all the way through the November elections. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, also hit Republicans for making people choose between funding one issue over the other.

"Republicans want to force a choice between helping students afford college and allowing women access to mammograms," Schumer said during floor remarks Thursday.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund is a popular GOP target and is already set for elimination in the House budget plan at an estimated savings of $11.9 billion over 10 years.

Boehner later defended the use of eliminating the fund to cover the costs of student loans, noting that Democrats previously voted to pull money from the fund to pay for other things.

"We've already taken $4 billion out of this fund. It was used to help pay for the payroll tax credit," Boehner said during a press conference. "Many Democrats voted for it. The president signed it into law. So I think they've made it clear the precedent is there that they don't believe this money is essential to their program. That's why it's being paid for here."