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House approves student loan measure

WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. House approved a Republican-backed bill Friday that would retain student loan rates another year by taking money from a preventive healthcare program.

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The White House vowed to veto the measure, which it called in a statement "a politically motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America's college students deserves."

The bill would retain the 3.4 percent interest rate on the loans for one more year by cutting $5.9 billion from the preventive healthcare program created through healthcare reform, The Washington Post reported.

The low interest rate resulted from the 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which reduced interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans for the following four academic years to 3.4 percent, with the proviso the rates would revert to 6.8 percent July 1 this year.

Senate Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday that would pay to keep the interest rate from doubling by imposing new payroll taxes on so-called "S corporations" with three or fewer shareholders.

The Stafford student loans are taken out by nearly 8 million students each year.

During floor debate, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Democrats had picked a fight on something where there "is absolutely no fight."

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"People want to politicize it because it's an election year, but my God, do we have to fight about everything?"

Boehner said President Barack Obama has proposed cutting the health fund for other purposes, The Hill reported.

"So to accuse us of wanting to gut women's health is absolutely not true," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is beneath us. This is beneath the dignity of this House, and the dignity of the public trust that we enjoy from our constituents."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the healthcare fund helps pay for immunization, health screening and other preventive maintenance, so cutting it to pay for maintain student loan interest rates "just would be wrong."

"Imagine if we're sitting around that kitchen table as a family … and we say as a family, in order for you to go to college, we're not going to be able to immunize your little brother or sister, we're not going to be able to have preventive care in terms of screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer … for your mom, or any other preventive care for men and women in our family," Pelosi said on the House floor.

The healthcare program, the Prevention and Public Health Fund, provides money to city and state governments to help prevent obesity and the spread of HIV/AIDS, reduce tobacco use, train public health workers and modernize vaccines.

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The Post said the Senate doesn't plan to vote on its version of the rate-extension bill until after it returns from a week-long recess May 8, setting the stage for debate on the issue as President Obama and Mitt Romney campaign.


Obama campaign touts bin Laden kill

WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- The assassination of Osama bin Laden -- arguably U.S. President Barack Obama's biggest foreign policy credit -- Friday became official campaign fodder.

Just one day after Vice President Joe Biden said at a fundraising event had Republican Mitt Romney been president he would not have authorized bin Laden's killing, the Obama campaign released a Web video hammering the theme.

Last May 1, Navy SEALs raided bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound, killing the terrorist leader.

In Thursday's campaign appearance, Biden said: "Thanks to President Obama, bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. You have to ask yourself, if Governor Romney had been president, could he have used the same slogan -- in reverse?"

The campaign video asks: "Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?" as former President Bill Clinton praises Obama.

Politico reported Obama gave an interview in the Situation Room to NBC to mark the one-year anniversary of al-Qaida leader bin Laden's assassination and deputy national security adviser John Brennan was to make the Sunday TV talk show circuit.

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The Romney campaign accused the Obama camp of politicizing bin Laden's death.

In a statement circulated by the Republican National Committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. -- the Republican presidential nominee in 208 -- accused Obama of exploiting the anniversary of Obama bin Laden's death to score political points, The Hill reported.

"Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of September 11th and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad," McCain said.


Obama claims 'extraordinary progress'

WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said in Washington Friday the nation has made "extraordinary progress" in recovering from the economic downturn.

Speaking to an audience at a fundraiser held at a private residence, the president said when he took office in 2009, the United States was enmeshed in "the worst economic crisis worldwide since the 1930s.," was engaged in two wars and faced the prospect of a decimated auto industry."

"And after three and a half years we're nowhere near where we need to be yet," he said. "But think about the extraordinary progress that we've been able to make.

"Over the last three months alone, 600,000 jobs created; 4 million jobs created over the last two years. We've been able to save an auto industry where GM is now the number-one automaker again in the world; saved probably a million jobs throughout the Midwest. Chrysler is back. And our auto industry is actually making better cars -- cars that are being sold all around the world."

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Obama touted healthcare reform, education reform "the work that we've done not just to end the war in Iraq, but also to start transitioning our troops out of Afghanistan" as signs of "enormous progress."

"But we've got a lot more to do," the president said.

He told the audience of supporters he believes the American people "are on our side" on the major issues of the 2012 campaign.

"They believe what we believe," Obama said.

"But understandably, things are tough, and they've grown cynical, and they see the mess that goes on in Washington and there's a temptation at a certain point to just say, oh, a plague on both their houses; nothing is getting done," the president said.

"And so we're going to have to work harder this time than we did in '08," he said.


Lawmaker: No 'bad acts' for Secret Service

WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said Secret Service agents can no longer take foreign nationals to hotel rooms and must avoid places of "bad acts."

Jackson Lee told CNN after speaking Thursday with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan the new rules were meant to address the recent prostitution scandal in Colombia by an advance team of agents protecting U.S. President Barack Obama.

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"If this is the culture, then they want to immediately put it to rest," Jackson Lee said.

"More importantly, we're going to be saying that no foreign national will be allowed in your room, it will be absolutely illegal in terms of your job for you to in essence attend or be associated with any place of bad acts, and then finally a professional development officer or personnel officer is going to go along on every trip that the agents take out of the country," she said.

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called Friday for a thorough investigation of the Secret Service.

Grassley, in an interview on CBS News, said the investigation should be carried out by the inspector general of the U.S. Homeland Security Department, The Hill reported.

Obama, after stories of agents partying with prostitutes on a trip to Colombia, said he trusts the Secret Service and Sullivan. However, new reports have come up of possible misconduct by agents on other presidential trips going back more than a decade.

"If it was just the 12 knuckleheads that were involved, as the president said, then I'd say [Sullivan has] no problems," Grassley said. "But if it goes much deeper, you know nothing happens, nothing's changed in Washington if heads don't roll."

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Twelve Secret Service employees were pulled from duty following reports that some took prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, April 11, two days before Obama arrived for the Summit of the Americas.

The Pentagon said Thursday it added a 12th member of the military to the list of personnel under investigation. As many as 21 women were involved, the lawmakers say.

The Secret Service and the Pentagon are conducting parallel investigations.

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