May 27, 2018
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House approves student loan bill, paid for with health care funds

By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Setting the stage for another political showdown, the House on Friday narrowly passed a Republican plan that would stop an interest-rate hike on student loans — paid for with funds from President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Democrats want the rate kept low, but objected to eliminating a fund for public health and prevention programs to finance it. The GOP approach, they contended, was an attack on women and children who benefit from such programs. The White House vowed to veto the legislation, calling it a “politically motivated proposal,” and noted that the health fund provides hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

If Congress fails to come to an agreement, loan rates for 7 million college students will double to 6.8 percent on July 1. The rate increase would hit new loans.

In seeking to avoid this latest partisan battle, House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, may have launched one by quickly pushing forward the legislation with little Democratic support. The House vote was 215-195. The legislation is essentially dead on arrival in the Senate, where Democrats have proposed taxing higher-income households to fund the loan program.

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