The Obama administration today threatened to veto the GOP-proposed House version of a student loan bill because it would repeal a fund for preventive health services.
"This is a politically-motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America's college students deserves," the White House said in a statement. "If the president is presented with H.R. 4628, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill."
The $5.9 billion bill, which the House is debating today, would prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling July 1. To pay for it, however, the GOP version would cut the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a program created as part of the president's health care reform act.
"Women, in particular, will benefit from this Prevention Fund, which would provide for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer," according to the White House.
The veto threat comes after the president spent the week publicly campaigning for Congress to extend a 2007 law that cut student loan rates to 3.4 percent. If Congress does not act, interest rates will double to 6.8 percent this summer.
Republicans fired back at the veto threat, accusing the president of playing politics. "The president is so desperate to fake a fight that he's willing to veto a bill to help students over a slush fund that he advocated cutting in his own budget. It's a simple as this: Republicans are acting to help college students and the president is now getting in the way," a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement.
The White House concedes the president is proposing gradual and targeted reductions to the fund, but, according to a White House spokesman "reducing it and gutting it completely are two very different things."