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Boehner calls Obama's travel plans 'pathetic'

April 26, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro
  • House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called the dispute over keeping student loan interest rates low a "fake fight."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called the dispute over keeping… (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John A. Boehner has vividly stepped up his attacks on President Obama, calling the president’s visits to college campuses a blatant campaign pitch for reelection -- and "pathetic."

"This is beneath the dignity of the White House," Boehner said Thursday, calling on the administration to reimburse the president for taxpayer-funded travel this week. "It doesn’t even pass the straight test, are you kidding me?"

Congress is preparing for a new fight against Obama over keeping student loan interest rates low. Rates are set to double to 6.8% on July 1 unless Congress acts. And while both Republicans and Democrats say they want to keep rates at 3.4%, they are at odds over how to pay for the $6 billion in costs.

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Boehner has repeatedly called it a "fake fight," and the GOP leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, similarly lashed out this week as the president sought support for the low interest rates on college campuses.

"If the President was more interested in solving this problem than in hearing the sound of his own voice or the applause of college students, all he’d have to do is pick up the phone and work it out with Congress," McConnell said.

Democrats want to tax upper-income earners -- those earning more than $200,000 a year or $250,000 for couples -- who are able to avoid certain taxes because they organize their income as small, so-called subchapter-S corporations. Those companies with fewer than three workers would be hit with the new tax.

A tax increase is a non-starter for Republicans, who instead want to eliminate a public health and prevention fund under the new health care law.

Boehner and other Republicans have said Obama should reimburse for the costs of using Air Force One and other government resources when he makes the case on the road, as he is doing this week.

The White House dismissed the criticism, saying travel is part of the president’s job.

"This week’s travel has been part of the president’s official responsibility to get outside of Washington, D.C., hear from students, and discuss stopping interest rates on their loans from doubling in July," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

The White House elaborated further, saying Republicans were the ones trying to "politicize" the issue. The president’s trip was intended to raise awareness of a policy debate, making it official business, said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Carney said the White House followed the same rules as past administrations in reimbursing for campaign travel, and he argued Boehner had praised President George W. Bush for traveling to Ohio to talk about education in 2004.

"I understand that there's an effort to politicize this, an effort to hide the fact that they have a policy problem on their hands," Carney said. "But our interest, the president's interest, is ensuring that this matter be taken care of on behalf of American college students."

Staff writers Michael A. Memoli and Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.

Twitter.com/LisaMascaroinDC

Original source: Boehner calls Obama's travel plans 'pathetic'

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