The House Republicans just did it, they voted to trade low student loan interest rates for childhood immunizations, and, of course, more War on Women by cutting women's health. The vote was 215-195 despite a last minute threat from Club for Growth and Heritage, warning Republicans that voting to extend the lower interest rate at all will be counted against them. Thirty Republicans voted against, it, 13 Democrats for it.
Those breast and cervical cancer screenings, and immunizations, and HIV screenings, that's all going to people who Republicans would prefer not to think about anyway. The White House points this out in the veto threat [pdf] issued by the Office of Management and Budget:
Unfortunately, rather than finding common ground on a way to pay for this critical policy, H.R. 4628 includes an attempt to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, created to help prevent disease, detect it early, and manage conditions before they become severe. Women, in particular, will benefit from this Prevention Fund, which would provide for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer. This is a politically-motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America’s college students deserves. If the President is presented with H.R. 4628, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.So the hostage, low student loan interest rates, has effectively been taken, with the gun to the head of women and children's health. Just in time for recess!
There are, of course, plenty of other ways to pay for the extension of these low interest rates. The way the Senate has chosen to do it is through closing a loophole that allows certain wealthy businesspeople to avoid paying Medicare taxes on large chunks of their income, the Newt Gingrinch/John Edward loophole, as the Senate Democrats are calling it.
Does all this sound familiar? A major hit is about to fall on the middle class. Republicans refuse to allow any kind of tax increase on the wealthy to fund it, and take a hostage. Democrats suggest closing yet another loophole that helps the rich. And we're heading into another big standoff. The difference this time is that we're much closer to an election, and a voting bloc that is critical to Democrats—young people—is watching very closely and will be energized by this fight.
By the way, remember how the Bush tax cuts didn't have to be paid for? Fun times.