House Speaker John Boehner accused President Barack Obama of concocting a “fake fight” over student-loan interest rates as Democrats said the Republican plan to freeze the rate robs money from women’s health programs.

The partisan bickering broke out as the House prepared to debate legislation that Republican leaders rushed to the floor to try to seize the initiative on the issue and blunt Obama’s re-election pitch for the youth vote.

House Republicans’ legislation, to be voted on tomorrow, would extend for another year the 3.4 percent interest rate on college student loans. Unless Congress acts by July 1, the rate will rise to 6.8 percent. Senate Democrats and Republicans are offering competing plans for freezing the interest rate.

Boehner, insisting that Republicans intended all along to avert the rate increase, told reporters it was “pathetic” for Obama “to make a campaign issue out of this” and travel to campuses in three battleground states to “try to make this a political issue.”