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John Boehner Sees Path Forward on Student Loan Rates

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted that Democrats and Republicans will be able to work together to pass legislation to avert a politically damaging increase in student loan interest rates.

“Democrats and Republicans have been working together to get this resolved and I believe that we will,” Boehner said today on CNN’s "State of the Union."

The House passed a bill Friday, 215-195, that would prevent the 3.4 percent interest rate on student loans from doubling starting July 1 and pay for the $6 billion cost of the bill by eliminating a fund in the 2010 health care overhaul that covers prevention and public health. The bill received 13 Democratic votes and all but 30 Republicans supported it.

“What we are trying to do here is deal with this problem in a responsible way,” Boehner said.

His comments come after President Barack Obama visited three universities last week where he urged Congress to extend a 2007 law that cut student loan rates to 3.4 percent. If lawmakers don’t pass legislation to keep the current interest rate of Stafford loans, approximately 7.4 million students with federal student loans would see their interest rates double on July 1, which would mean the average student would pay an additional $1,000 in interest for each year that Congress allows the higher rate, according to the Department of Education.

But the White House has threatened to veto the House bill, calling it a “politically motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America's college students deserves.”

Senate Democrats plan to consider a bill after the recess that would avert the interest rate hike and cover the $6 billion cost by requiring more wealthy individuals to pay Social Security and Medicare payroll tax.

“If the Senate wants to do a different pay for that will be up to them, but we will have this issue resolved,” Boehner said.

Boehner chastised the president for worrying about his re-election and “picking a fight where there is no fight,” rather than trying to work with Republicans to find bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems.

“The president is getting some very bad advice from his campaign team,” Boehner said. “He is diminishing the presidency by picking fake fights, going after straw men every day.”

Along with the student loan fracas, Boehner listed Democratic efforts to pass legislation that would require millionaires pay at least a 30 percent tax rate, known as the Buffett rule for billionaire businessman Warren Buffett. Republicans oppose the idea because they believe it would raise taxes on small businesses and make them less inclined to hire.

Boehner recently put the odds of Democrats taking back the majority at one in three, but on Sunday he appeared more confident, though he stressed that nothing could be take for granted.

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