House Speaker John Boehner delivered an impassioned speech today on the House floor in support of the GOP's legislation asking with a thump on the podium, "Do we have to fight about everything?"
Several Democrats, all women, walked out in protest of the speaker's comments.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, blamed the Democrats for inventing a political fight over the extension of student loan interest rates when there is widespread agreement in Congress that the rates should not be permitted to double on July 1.
"How in the world did we ever get here?" Boehner asked lawmakers. "Think about this: a fight being picked over an issue that everyone knew was going to be resolved; a fight being picked over an issue that there is no fight over. Democrats five years ago put this cliff in the law that would require student loan interest rates to more than double on July the 1 st.
"I don't know why they did it, but they did it," he added. "Nobody wants to see student interest rates go up, especially when you got recent college graduates - 50 percent are either unemployed or underemployed as a result of the president's economic policies."
Boehner recalled that Democrats and Republicans have worked "for months" trying to fix the problem, and asked why Democrats "insist that we have to have a political fight on something where there is no fight?"
"There is absolutely no fight," he said. "People want to politicize this because it's an election year, but my God do we have to fight about everything? And now we're going to have a fight over women's health. Give me a break."
The GOP's bill on student loans took money from the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) for preventative health care services like mammograms and immunizations, and applied those savings to cover the $6 billion cost of the interest rate extension.
"This is the latest plank in the so-called 'War on Women,' entirely created by my colleagues across the aisle for political gain," he continued as he slapped the podium with his open hand to cheers from Republicans in the chamber. Some women members, including Reps. Maxine Waters, Donna Edwards, Marcy Kaptur and Yvette Clark left the chamber in protest of the speaker's comments.
Boehner pointed out that President Obama's own budget "called for reductions in spending in this slush fund" and many Democrats voted to support previous reductions from the preventative health fund when they voted to pass the middle class tax cut earlier this year.
"You may have already forgotten that several months ago you all voted to cut $4 billion out of this slush fund when we passed the payroll tax credit bill," he said to the Democrats. "So to accuse us of wanting to gut women's health is absolutely not true."
Republicans in the chamber erupted into cheers as Boehner regained his composure .
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is beneath us," he admonished in a soft whisper. "This is beneath the dignity of this House and the dignity of the public trust that we enjoy from our constituents. They expect us to come here and to be honest with each other, to work out these issues. And to pick this big political fight where there is no fight is just silly. Give me a break."
The House voted a short-time later to approve the legislation, 215-195, much to the dismay of Democrats, who opposed the way Republicans paid for the extension.
The House Republican majority did the heavy lifting in garnering adequate support for the extension, which cost about $6 billion. But it took the support of 13 Democrats to ensure the bill would pass as 30 Republicans ended up voting against the legislation.
The bill now heads to the Senate, but Democrats in the upper chamber have signaled that they will move their own legislation next month with an alternative payfor. Instead, the Democrats' bill proposes to increase taxes on small businesses in order to offset the price tag of the legislation.