House Republicans this week said they would agree to keep student loan interest rates at their current level, but only if they're allowed to gut spending on preventive health care to finance the costs. The White House balked, but the GOP didn't care -- today, the Republican bill passed, 215 to 195, largely along party lines.
Several Democratic lawmakers noted the impact the GOP health care cuts would have on women's health, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who's apparently grown a little sensitive to talk about the Republican "war on women," threw a bit of a tantrum on the House floor during the legislative debate.
I can appreciate why Boehner doesn't want to talk about the negative impact Republican policies are having on women, but I'd remind the Speaker that the quickest way to change the conversation is for Republicans to stop pursuing policies that have a negative impact on women.
In this case, rather than simply helping students because it would be good for them and the economy, Boehner's caucus decided to play a cheap little game -- they'll keep interest rates low only if they take funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which has nothing to do with student loans.
What would the real-world impact be if Boehner's health care cuts were to pass? There's no mystery here: these cuts would mean hundreds of thousands of women would have less access to breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings, tens of thousands of children could lose access to immunizations, and programs to prevent congenital heart defects and fetal alcohol syndrome would be eliminated.
That's not an opinion; it's just what would happen. The Prevention and Public Health Fund funds these efforts now, and if Republicans took the money from the fund, the efforts would be dramatically curtailed. It comes on the heels of related GOP Republican proposals restricting contraception; cutting off Planned Parenthood; requiring state-mandated, medically-unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds; forcing physicians to lie to patients about abortion and breast cancer; and fighting equal-pay laws. Yesterday, most Senate Republicans even opposed the Violence Against Women Act.
Boehner can shout, point, and pound the podium to his heart's content, but if he doesn't want to be criticized for Republican measures that undermine women's health, he should change his party's agenda, not whine about Democrats shining a light on that agenda.