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Biden: Don't trade student loans for health care

Tuesday - 6/5/2012, 2:06pm  ET

By JIM KUHNHENN
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - With a deadline looming, Vice President Joe Biden says the Obama administration is examining a proposal from congressional Republican leaders on how to prevent interest rates on some student loans from doubling.

"We're not going to trade off student loans for other vital, vital programs," Biden said, responding to a reporter's question during a White House meeting with college officials.

The White House stance means negotiations with congressional Republicans will likely go to the brink before being resolved. Both parties favor extending current 3.4 percent interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans for another year, but they have been divided over how to pay for it. The current rates expire July 1.

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are offering to pay for the $6 billion cost of extending the rates with cost-cutting proposals offered by President Barack Obama in the past. One would gradually increase the amount that federal workers contribute to their pensions _ a step opposed by many lawmakers representing districts with government facilities. Another proposal includes a reduction in federal Medicaid reimbursements to states.

Biden said "we're wide open to listen" to proposals from Congress. But he also said Congress should stop "playing games" by suggesting that it would maintain the low loan rates by taking the costs out of health care.

Biden made his remarks while announcing a partnership with dozens of colleges to provide new students with easier-to-understand information on costs and financial aid.

The vice president met with representatives from several schools, including Syracuse University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The state university systems in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and Texas also are participating.

Under the new financial aid transparency agreement, the schools will provide students with data on their financial aid options and estimated monthly payments they will owe after graduation.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)