House Speaker John Boehner Thursday called President Obama’s visits to college campuses in three battleground states this week “pathetic” political posturing and said the president’s reelection campaign should reimburse taxpayers for the travel.
Obama traveled to universities in North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado to urge Congress to stop the interest rate on federal student loans from doubling July 1 from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Boehner said that Republicans as well as Democrats want to prevent the bump, but there is a predictable stand-off over how to pay for the $6 billion cost.
“Our country’s facing some major economic and fiscal challenges, yet here’s the president wasting time on a fake fight to try to gain his own re-election,” Boehner (R.,Ohio) said. “These are the types of political stunts and, frankly, they aren’t worth it and worthy of his office. This is the biggest job in the world, and I’ve never seen a president make it smaller.”
On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee filed a formal complaint with the nonpartisan Government Accountability office, requesting an investigation of the college swing and other recent Obama trips to see if the reelection campaign is defrauding the government.
The White House and Obama for America, the president’s reelection committee, said that the travel this week was official because it involved advocacy on a pending legislative issue.
“One might imagine if this were a genuinely government event he might have stopped in a non-battleground state like Texas or Vermont,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote to the GAO.
Priebus said “it is a pattern of behavior that is worsening,” saying the White House has charged taxpayers for dozens of campaign-style events over the past three and a half years.
Sitting presidents are required by federal rules to reimburse the Treasury for the cost of political travel – notably the $179,000-an-hour cost of operating Air Force One – but not for the massive security and logistical support system that necessarily accompanies a president everywhere. There is often controversy over what should and should not be reimbursed, and there are inherent political aspects to the job.
“We’re not going to get hot and bothered by RNC stunts,” David Axelrod, Obama’s top political adviser, said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday to announce campaign trips next week to Columbus, Ohio and Richmond, Va.