Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
You know what they say, "winning begets winning." After their victory in the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, President Obama and Democratic leaders finally got the "less-than-do-nothing" Tea-Publican Congress to move on critical bills before leaving town for the July 4th recess. Ah, smells like success! Congress Passes Highway Funds, Extend Lower Student Loan Rate:
Congress on Friday approved legislation that will extend federal highway programs through 2014, a low interest rate on student loans for one year, and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years.
Leaders in the House and Senate negotiated the giant package, leaving no doubt that it would have enough support to pass. The bill will likely be the last major piece of legislation approved by Congress until after the November elections.
The House voted 373-52 in favor of the bill, which was supported by every voting Democrat, while 52 Republicans opposed it. In the Senate, the tally was 74-19, with 23 Republicans joining every Democrat in voting for the measure. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) voted present, while Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) missed the vote.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama looks forward to signing the bill.
Democrats, in particular, hailed the extension of the highway provisions for two years, which they said would boost job creation.
"This conference agreement ... means jobs, and it means that we will not have further layoffs," said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.). "It means that we will continue to improve our economy, and when all is said and done, I would choose to vote for American jobs any day."
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Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, seemed relived to be finally approving a long-term highway bill after several short-term extensions.
"It is good to be at this point in the completion of a long-overdue transportation reform bill. A lot of people said it couldn't be done," Mica said.
"Tomorrow would actually close down thousands of transportation projects around the country," he added. "Transportation departments around the country were on the verge of sort of handing out IOUs or shutting down. Probably millions would have been put out of work if we hadn't acted."
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[T]he highway measure was temporarily extended nine times [since 2009], including the latest three-month appropriation that was scheduled to expire on Saturday.
The scope of the new transportation legislation has been reduced since the last time Congress approved a multiyear highway bill. The last bill, which was signed into law in 2005 by former President George W. Bush, lasted four years and spent $244 billion on road and transit projects.
The bill also extends the lower 3.4 percent rate for new, federally backed student loans for another year. The low rate was set to expire July 1, which would have required a doubling of the rate to 6.8 percent.
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Finally, the bill reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program for five years, which will put the housing industry at ease. NFIP authorization was due to expire July 30, and because it's the nation's only supplier of flood insurance, the housing industry was increasingly worried about what failure to extend the program would do to home sales in flood zones.
UPDATE: Winning! White House nominees approved:
The list included Allison Macfarlane to chair the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Kristine Svinicki to be a commission member.
The Senate gave the nod to almost a dozen ambassadors, including those to Burma, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. And it also approved of the nomination of Deborah Jeffrey to be Inspector General of the Corporation for National And Community Service, a post that became vacant after President Obama fired her predecessor, Gerald Walpin. Walpin later unsucessfully sued the administration for wrongful termination and prompted congressional investigations.