Good news for college students and their parents, bad news for cyclists.
In a show of bipartisan cooperation, Republicans and Democrats passed a bill to extend the current 3.4 percent interest rate for certain kinds of federal student loans. Without Congress taking action, the interest rate would have doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1, resulting in costs of $1,000 for the average debtor over the life of a loan.
Republicans and Democrats had disagreed about where to find $6 billion to pay for this. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were able to agree on two measures to pay for the program, shortening the period in which certain students can receive a federal subsidy for their loans and also changing the rules for worker pensions.
The House approved the bill by a vote of 373-52 and the Senate by a 74-19 vote, with one senator voting present.
Reuters described the bill as “massive” and “job-creating” as it also contained funding for highway and transit programs. Specifically, the bill will save some 1.8 million jobs by preserving aid for highway and transit construction going to states. It will also create another 1 million jobs by drawing on federal loan guarantees to attract private sector investment in infrastructure projects.
The bill also contains funding for federal flood insurance programs to protect 5.6 million households and speeds up efforts for a plan to prevent Asian carp, which feed on other species, from entering the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River.
Earlier in the week, both parties had made concessions. House Republicans withdrew demands that the bill contain approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline and that it prevent federal regulation of toxic waste from coal-fired power plants. Democrats gave up environmental protections and programs for biking and pedestrian safety.
With legislators poised to leave Washington for a weeklong Fourth of July recess, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) spoke of the bill as a boost for the economy and as one “that is supported by conservatives and liberals, progressives and moderate.” But John Mica, the Republican chairman of the House Transportation Committee who had led negotiations on the bill, said that it had been “a very bumpy road to get to this point” and that he was not particularly “pleased” about it. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) an advocate for bike and pedestrian safety programs that must now compete for money with other transportation projects, said that “it is not a bill to be proud of.”
Thanks to our wonderful Care2 members, who helped make this happen!
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