The House of Representatives voted narrowly this afternoon to pass a Republican-sponsored bill that would prevent the interest rate on new subsidized Stafford loans to undergraduates from doubling in July. The bill, which was approved on a largely party-line vote of 215 to 195, would pay the $6-billion cost of keeping the interest rate at 3.4 percent by using funds for preventive health care that are part of President Obama’s health-care overhaul.
That proposal drew a veto threat this morning from the White House, and Democrats in the House assailed the bill as part of a Republican attack on women’s needs. Republicans have called the money a “slush fund” open to misuse, and in an impassioned speech before the vote, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House speaker, criticized the White House and Democrats as having needlessly “picked a fight” on this issue, given that both parties say they want to keep the interest rate from rising.
House Democrats proposed paying the $6-billion cost by cutting subsidies to oil companies; Senate Democrats would do so by tightening taxes on owners of so-called S corporations, a plan backed by the White House. Mr. Obama made the interest-rate dispute central to his re-election campaign this week by devoting appearances at three swing-state universities to the issue. The House legislation (HR 4628), which would delay the interest-rate rise for one year, now moves to the Senate, where Democratic control means it is unlikely to pass.