House approves pork-laden transportation bill
The massive bill also includes measures to prevent an increase in interest rates for student loans, and subsidies to underwrite federal flood insurance.
But it is the transportation part of the bill that, as always, has something for everyone on the Hill. At least this version only maintains spending at current levels.
Congress gave final approval on Friday to a massive job-creating U.S. transportation bill that under a bipartisan deal will also keep interest rates low for millions of federal student loans and maintain federal flood insurance.
After months of negotiations, the compromise was reached just days before the deadlines for an increase in student loan rates and for a lapse in transportation funding.
The Republican-led House of Representatives and Democratic-led Senate passed the measure on back-to-back votes, clearing the way for President Barack Obama to sign it into law.
In a rare display of bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans embraced the measure largely because of $105 billion in transportation spending over the next 27 months that would create or save about 3 million jobs, a key issue in the November 6 congressional and presidential elections.
"The construction sector is hurting," said Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who led negotiations on the bill. "This was the answer."
The measure would also spare a potentially key voting block, about 7.4 million students, a doubling of interest rates on their federal college loans.
After months of negotiations and jockeying for political position, the House passed the bill, 373-52. The Senate approved it, 74-19.
The bill came together this week as lawmakers calculated the election-year impact of continued gridlock on measures affecting jobs, soaring consumer debt, and help for people who need government underwriting for flood risk to buy a home.
"It has indeed been a very bumpy road to get to this point," said John Mica, the Republican chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who led negotiations on the bill.
"I'm not particularly pleased with some of the twists and turns," he said on the House floor on Friday, describing the difficulties of reaching the deal in the gridlocked Congress.
The horse trading on these porkers always makes them more expensive than they have to be. Meanwhile, the White House claims the measure will "create or save" 3 million jobs -- although no one will ask where in thin air they plucked that figure from.
It might be interesting to throw this back in the Democrat's face the next time they talk about "GOP obstructionism." Obama got just about everything he wanted in this bill so there's little excuse for the Dems to whine about denying Obama his "jobs" bills.