House GOP leaders to Obama: Cancel student loan rally, work with us

The top two Republicans in the House are urging President Obama to cancel a scheduled event in Las Vegas on Thursday and instead work with Congress to prevent an increase in student loan rates.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released a letter to President Obama on Wednesday taking him to task for ignoring their offer on a student loan bill.

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Obama has hammered congressional Republicans for blocking a bill to keep in place student loan interest rates that are set to double on July 1. House Republicans passed their own version of a student loan bill last month over a presidential veto threat. In a bid to break the impasse, GOP leaders sent Obama a letter last week presenting two options in his own budget to offset the cost of the program.

The president is headed to Nevada on Thursday for an event aimed at pressuring Congress to act on the student loan rates.

“With all of the great economic challenges facing our country, there is no reason to manufacture political fights where there is no policy disagreement,” Boehner and Cantor wrote. “That’s why we cannot understand why you, without having responded to our latest offer, would schedule a campaign-style event in Nevada tomorrow to discuss student loan rates.”

Both Obama’s rally and the GOP letter offer a clear reminder that campaign season is well underway. Boehner and Cantor released their missive a couple of hours after the House minority leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), released her own letter to Boehner calling on him to cancel next week’s House recess, in part to resolve the student loan issue.

Both Republicans and Democrats have said they want to extend current interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans for another year, a proposition that will cost roughly $6 billion.

The rates, which are currently at 3.4 percent, are scheduled to double July 1.

GOP leaders sent a set of proposals to extend the rates to the White House last week.

One of those plans combines, among other things, restrictions on subsidies received by student loan recipients and alterations to a tax on Medicaid providers.

With that offer, Republicans have suggested they have Democrats on their heels on the issue.

Some top Democrats, like Education Secretary Arne Duncan, declined to comment on the Republican offer this week. But Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of a Senate committee that deals with education, deemed the proposals insufficient on Wednesday, saying they would take from low-income families to help low-income students.