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UPDATE: Both houses of Congress easily passed a transportation bill Friday that will extend highway funding and keep student loan interest rates from doubling over the weekend. The Senate approved the measure with a 74-19 vote (one Senator voted "present"), Politico reports. The bill now moves to President Obama, who will sign it into law.
Update Friday, June 29 2:21 p.m.: As expected, the House has passed a massive transportation bill Friday afternoon that will extend highway funding and keep student loan interest rates from doubling. The vote was 373-52, according to the Wall Street Journal. Every Democratic representative voted for the bill.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Friday, after which President Obama will sign it into law.
Friday, June 29: Congress is preparing to pass a sprawling legislative package Friday that will, among other things, prevent a scheduled increase in some federal student loan rates, fund and overhaul federal highway programs, and extend flood insurance funding.
As the Associated Press notes, the passage of the $109 billion transportation bill would provide legislators, especially those facing re-election in November, with a counternarrative for the current perception that partisan gridlock has resulted in a "do-nothing" Congress. They're up against two deadlines—highway and transit programs expire on Saturday, and new student loan interest rates will double on Sunday.
Legislators apparently felt the pressure of the approaching deadlines, pulling the bill together this week after months of negotiations. Both the House and Senate have votes on the bill scheduled for Friday. President Obama has pitched the bill as a means to promote construction job growth. It will fund transportation projects in every state, CNN reports. The president is expected to swiftly sign it into law after passage.
The bill's supporters include leaders from both parties. Both sides gave up divisive demands at the last minute in order to make it more likely to pass: Republicans wanted the bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, while Democrats wanted to introduce environmental protections as well as bike and pedestrian safety programs, as the AP notes. Both are gone from the current package.
The legislation will also raise about $20 billion in new revenue from taxes and fees from corporations, the Hill explains.