The top Republican House leaders, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, urged President Barack Obama on Wednesday to cancel a planned speech on education in Las Vegas in favor of working with them to keep rates on a popular kind of student loans from doubling come July 1.
"With all of the great economic challenges facing our country, there is no reason to manufacture political fights where there is not policy disagreement," they wrote Obama in a letter obtained by Yahoo News.
House Republicans have proposed covering the legislation's estimated $6 billion price tag with savings Obama proposed in his budget, but complain that the White House has not formally responded to their proposals. The House already adopted legislation to hold the rate down, paid for by tapping a fund that provides preventive care. Democrats oppose that effort.
"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," Boehner and Cantor said.
"We urge you to consider canceling tomorrow's Las Vegas rally and instead work with us so that we can extend these rates before they expire and stay focused on additional measures to help create jobs," they wrote.Obama has hit Republicans hard on the issue. The rate jump could affect loans for some 7.4 million students, who currently pay 3.4 percent interest. The Obama campaign is counting on young voters — a critical part of his 2008 coalition — come November.
The rate jump, set to take effect July 1 unless lawmakers act, could force some families and individuals to put off college or forgo it altogether. It could also put a squeeze on recent graduates who have started to pay back what they borrowed but are caught in an ugly job market, as many remain unemployed or underemployed.