KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House Votes To Use Health Law Prevention Fund To Help Pay For Student Loan Program

Bloomberg: House Votes To Avert Doubling Of Student Interest Rates
The Republican-led House, defying a veto threat from the White House, voted 215-195 yesterday to extend the current 3.4 percent interest rate on government student loans that is set to double on July 1. The Obama administration called the measure "politically motivated" because it would finance the $5.9 billion subsidy by abolishing a public-health fund (Rowley, 4/28).

USA Today: House Votes To Extend Low Rates On Federal Student Loans
Both parties broadly agree that the rate should be extended for one year, but they do not agree on how to pay for it. It is a scenario that has played out repeatedly in this Congress. Republicans would pay for the cost of the loan extension by cutting funds from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), a $15 billion fund created under the health care law ... Congress already dipped into the fund to use $5 billion to pay for the payroll tax cut extension package earlier this year (Davis, 4/27).

Politico: House Passes Student Loan Bill With Health Fund Cuts
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the previous cuts are "all the more reason why we shouldn't be taking more money out of it." She said that the cuts to the fund in the payroll deal were the "only way" to get Republican approval of the plan. ... Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) said the prevention fund is "nothing more than a slush fund" that gives too much authority to the HHS secretary for "bike paths, jungle gyms and worse yet, lobbying campaigns" (Haberkorn, 4/27).

The New York Times: House Passes Student Loan Bill Despite Veto Threat
As with other measures designed to appeal to middle-class voters, the fight between Democrats and Republicans was less over the substance of the bill than how to pay for it, with Republicans, as they have all year, looking to cut government spending and Democrats, as has been their approach, looking to extract more money from high earners. Republicans, continuing their yearlong assault on the health care law, proposed it as a source for the money while Democrats, persisting with their accusation that the other party has been waging a "war on women," pushed that meme further, arguing that the money would reduce spending on preventive health programs (Steinhauer, 4/27).

The Washington Post: House Approves Student Loan Plan Despite Veto Threat
Before the vote, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) struck back angrily at claims by Democrats that the GOP plan to pay for the extension is another assault on women's rights and the health-care law. "Why do people insist that we have to have a political fight on something where there is no fight?" Boehner said, at times pounding a lectern for emphasis. "There is absolutely no fight. People want to politicize this because it's a political year. But, my God, do we have to fight about everything? And now we're going to have a fight over women's health" (O'Keefe, 4/27).

The Hill: House Takes A Swing At Healthcare Law And Extends Student Loan Rates
Like other Republicans, Boehner noted that Obama himself has proposed cutting the health fund in the past. ... Pelosi said the health fund provides for billions of dollars in spending for immunization, health screening and other activities that help maintain the health of Americans. ... Republicans rejected these claims over the last two days by citing examples of how the health fund has spent its money. Among other things, they said it has been used to build bike paths and jungle gyms, ad campaigns against junk food, free spaying and neutering for pets, and even lobbying (Kasperowicz, 4/27).

NPR: Presidential Politics Hits The Hill, And Students Win
House Republicans passed legislation Friday extending the subsidized student loans another year. Unlike the Senate Democrats' bill, which pays for the fix by closing a tax loophole, the House bill is paid for by abolishing the new health care law's Prevention and Public Health Fund. That prompted a veto threat from the White House and scorn from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "They say, 'OK, we won't allow it to double, but we're going to take the money from women's health,' " Pelosi said. "Should be no surprise to anyone, because they have an ongoing assault on women's health and this is in their budget, and this is just a continuation of that" (Welna, 4/28).

Wall Street Journal: Student-Loan Plan Passes House
The White House issued a veto threat, but Republicans made clear they would use the Democratic positioning to their own advantage. "It's as simple as this: Republicans are acting to help college students and the president is now getting in the way," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), in a statement (Hughes, 4/27).

Earlier KHN summary of coverage: Public Health Prevention Fund At Center Of Partisan Clash On Student Loans (4/27)

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