House Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that President Obama was acting "beneath the dignity of the White House" when he traveled around the country this week to pressure Republicans to help keep federal student loan costs from ballooning. Boehner said Obama should reimburse taxpayers for the trips' costs.
The Ohio Republican spoke a day after Obama wrapped up visits to three college campuses in North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa. At each stop, he gave campaignlike speeches lambasting the GOP and talking up election-year efforts by Democrats to keep subsidized Stafford loan interest rates from doubling in July, an increase that would affect 7.4 million students.
"For the president to make a campaign issue and then to travel to three battleground states and go to three large college campuses on taxpayers' money to try to make this some political issue is pathetic," Boehner told reporters. "And his campaign ought to be reimbursing the Treasury for the cost of this trip."
White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the travel as an effort to press an important policy issue. He said that by taking a high-profile stand in favor of extending the student loan rate, Obama succeeded in winning Republican support.
Boehner said Obama was charging the Treasury for a trip in which he targeted Republicans for ignoring a problem that GOP lawmakers were already working on.
"Frankly, I think this is beneath the dignity of the White House," he said. He also accused Obama of trying to concoct "fake fights" and added, "The emperor has no clothes."
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters she will oppose the GOP-written bill today, when it is scheduled for a House vote.
Pelosi said Republicans have decided, "Let's take it out of our old favorite target, women's health, and that's just wrong."
The House GOP bill would cut a $17 billion prevention and public health fund for immunization campaigns, research, screenings and wellness education.