World Bulletin/News Desk
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.
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 Nov. 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.
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.
Ambitious proposals to shore up U.S. infrastructure gave way to a deal that basically keeps transportation funding at current levels.
The compromise was based on a bipartisan proposal developed by the Democratic-led Senate and was supported by the Obama administration.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the transportation funding would help put Americans to work fixing crumbling U.S. infrastructure.
"There is still much more that Congress can do to put Americans back to work, and the President will continue to call on them" to do this, he said on Air Force One as Obama flew to Colorado.
The federal government spends more than $50 billion annually on road, bridge and transit construction projects. The last transportation bill expired in 2009 and construction programs have survived since through a series of short-term funding extensions. The current one ends on Saturday.
Student loans, flood insurance
The package also prevents federal student loan interest rates from doubling to 6.8 percent on July 1. The one-year reprieve came at a cost of $6 billion.
The bill also extend funding for the National Flood Insurance Program to Sept. 30, 2017. It had been set to expire at the end of July, in the middle of hurricane season.
The flood insurance program took on a massive debt load during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and has been kept alive through repeated short-term extensions as lawmakers struggle with reforms.
Federal law requires that homes in designated flood-risk areas have flood insurance before a mortgage can be completed. Because the NFIP is effectively the only flood insurance available in the United States, a lapse in the program would mean home sales could not close in designated flood areas.
Turkish, Swedish men killed in earthquake on Greek island of Kos
Israeli TV claims metal detectors at Al-Aqsa gates to be replaced with handheld ones
EU asks Israel and Jordan to take an attempt in the Al-Aqsa Mosque to uphold the status quo
Fifty-seven people injured in clashes, 12 taken to hospital, says Palestinian Red Crescent
Speaking ahead of a meeting with Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the foreign minister of Oman, which has remained neutral in the dispute, Tillerson noted "positive movement" in talks since he visited the region ten days ago.
Catalonia's pro-independence regional government plans to hold a secession vote in the wealthy northeastern region on October 1, in defiance of Spain's central government in Madrid which has repeatedly said such a vote would violate the constitution.
The 6.7-magnitude tremor also left hundreds more injured in the Turkish resort of Bodrum, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) across the sea from Kos.
"In the interest of Europe and in the spirit of the old Hungarian-Polish friendship, the inquisition campaign against Poland can never lead to success," Orban said during a visit in Romania.
"We shall not accept lessons and still less threats such as those we have heard from our neighbours in recent days," said Gentiloni.
Ultraviolent Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram faction this week released video of policewomen captured in northeast
Two other fighters of pro-government Shia militia were injured in attack
Spicer quit after Trump named Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier and one-time critic, as the new White House communications director -- a role Spicer had hoped to play.
West African nation marks former holiday as dark reminder of dictator Yayha Jammeh, now recently fallen
Rebranding to Syrian Democratic Forces done to give PYD/PKK a voice in Syria talks, assuage Ankara, Raymond Thomas says
The legislation, which was pushed through by parliament Wednesday, was approved by 55 senators, with 23 opposed and two abstentions.
Court warns naming alternative justices 'illegal', can lead to jail time