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House Divided Over How To Pay For Student Loan Bill


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

All this week, President Obama has traveled the country calling on Congress to prevent a doubling of student loan interest rates come July 1st. His presumptive Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, this week also endorsed keeping college loan rates at 3.4 percent. Today, the Republican-led House is voting to do just that. But House Democrats say the Republican bill has a poison pill, as NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Two days after Mitt Romney echoed President Obama's calls to extend the discounted student loan program, House Speaker John Boehner added his voice.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: The fact is, is students are already struggling with the cost of college. We do not want to see these interest rates go up, and there was never any thought these interest rates would go up.

WELNA: But here's the rub.

BOEHNER: We will pay for this by taking money from one of the slush funds in the president's health care law.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, it may be a slush fund to him, but it's survival to women.

WELNA: That's House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She says Democrats will oppose Boehner's bill because its $6 billion price tag is paid for by raiding the new health care law's fund for preventive care, which among other things covers mammograms and cervical cancer screening.

PELOSI: Thankfully, our president went out and made the pitch to the American people with such clarity that the Republicans are now changing their mind and coming back and saying, OK, we won't have it going from 3.4 to 6.8, but in order to pay for it, we're going to make an assault on women's health.

WELNA: The Senate is locked in a similar election year standoff.

David Welna, NPR news, the Capitol Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.