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Boehner accuses Obama of 'campaign theatrics' in student loan fight

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) accused President Obama of campaigning on taxpayer funds in response Wednesday to the president's goading of lawmakers to act on a bill to extend low student loan rates.

In a hastily-arranged press conference, Boehner accused Obama of political theatrics in his two-day tour of three college campuses in swing states. In those stops, Obama assailed Republicans in Congress for holding up legislation that would prevent an increase in student loan interest rates.

"You know this week, the president is traveling the country on the taxpayer's dime, campaigning and trying to invent a fight where there isn't one and never has been one on this issue of student loans," the Republican speaker said on Capitol Hill.

"Let's fix the problems for young Americans and leave the campaign theatrics for the fall," Boehner added.

The speaker's press conference followed an event at the University of Iowa this afternoon in which an impassioned Obama pointedly went after Republicans who accused him of not focusing on the economy.

"These guys don't get it. This is the economy," the president said in Iowa City. "What economy are they talking about?"

The event had heavy campaign overtones, though, and, to boot, the Obama re-election campaign is in the midst of a weeklong focus on winning young voters, a core constituency for the president in 2008.

The legislation to extend the student loan breaks has been hung up on Capitol Hill due to a familiar fight over how to finance the bill. Democrats favor a version that uses a tax, while Boehner announced a vote on Friday on a Republican alternative that would divert funds from a portion of the health care reform law -- which the GOP calls a "slush fund" -- to pay for the extension.

Still, the urgency in scheduling this vote on Friday underscores the extent to which Obama has used the bully pulpit to prompt a Republican reaction on these issues. Amid the president's push, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, made a point of saying earlier this week that he favors extending the lower student loan rate (though Romney didn't specify how he would finance it).

Michael O'Brien contributed.