(LAS VEGAS) — Touting his efforts to make college more affordable, President Obama Thursday blasted lawmakers for failing to extend low-rate student loans.
“This is a no-brainer,” the president told students at a campaign-style rally at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I’ve just said to Congress: Get this done. Get it done…this is not complicated.”
Thursday’s event was the latest in the president’s push to boost support among young voters and contrast his education policies with those of congressional Republicans and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Both the administration and Republican lawmakers want to prevent interest rates on a popular student loan from doubling at the end of the month, but remain deadlocked over how to pay for it.
Thursday, the president accused Republicans of stalling on the legislation and urged them to “get to work” and extend the low rates.
“The number one thing Congress should do for you…right now, is to stop interest rates from student loans from doubling at the end of the month,” he said to applause. “The clock is running out. You know, in today’s economy, higher education can’t be a luxury. It’s an economic necessity. Everybody should be able to afford it.”
Republicans, however, have launched their own offensive, accusing the president of playing politics with the issue and urging him to come back to Washington to “work with us” on a solution.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday charged the president with using “students as props in yet another speech calling on Congress to act.”
“What the president won’t tell these students is that the House has already acted and that Republicans in both chambers are ready to work on solutions as soon as the president can take the time,” he said on the Senate floor ahead of the president’s speech. “All the president has to do is to pick up his mail, choose one of the bipartisan proposals we laid out in a letter to him last week, proposals he’s already shown that he supports.”
GOP leaders outlined their proposals to pay for the bill’s estimated $6 billion price tag in their letter, but say the White House has not responded to their plan.
Late Thursday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., counter-offered the GOP proposals, and his letter was initially well-received by Republican leadership.
The president’s speech at UNLV Thursday marked his only “official event” during a two-day trip to California and Nevada that included five fundraisers and brought in over $5 million for his campaign coffers.
“Of all the thinly veiled campaign events the president has held this year, this one takes the cake,” a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said. “The president has three common-ground options to resolve this issue sitting on his desk, but he’s deliberately ignoring them to justify this taxpayer-funded rally. It’s truly remarkable.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Scott Stuntz, Teton Valley News
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Jennifer Rizzo, CNN
Jeremy Diamond, CNN