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One step forward, one step back on student loans

In the fight over student loans, yesterday offered some good news and some bad news. The good news is, House Republicans have switched gears and are now willing to prevent interest rates from doubling for over 7 million students.

The bad news is, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he wants to pay for the measure by taking money out of the Affordable Care Act's "slush fund."

Obamacare has a "slush fund"? Actually, no. As Greg Sargent explained, Boehner is referring to funds the Department of Health and Human Services can use on preventive care and public health programs, in addition to resources to help states set up health insurance exchanges. It's fully transparent; it's part of existing law, and it's money well spent. This is largely the opposite of a "slush fund."

Regardless, it leaves the debate in an unpleasant place. House Republicans, at least of yesterday, effectively want to give Democrats a choice: cut health care investments or raise student loan interest rates. It's at least mildly encouraging that GOP officials aren't actively trying to raise interest rates, but in the larger fight, it's one step forward and one step back.

On a related note, Rep. Todd Akin (R), a U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri, said a few days ago that he considers the very existence of the federal student-loan program "the equivalent of stage three cancer of socialism." If you missed it on the show last night, President Obama referenced Akin's comments at an event in Iowa yesterday.

For those who can't watch clips online, Obama said, "You've got one member of Congress who compared these student loans -- I'm not kidding here -- to a 'stage-three cancer of socialism.' Stage-three cancer? I don't know where to start. What do you mean? What are you talking about? Come on. Just when you think you've heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end."