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After months of wrangling, several stops and few starts, and 11th-hour pressure from leadership to forge a compromise, negotiators have reached a triple-header deal on transportation authority, a student loan interest rate cut and the national flood insurance program. That's right, there's a bill.
The 599-page bill--and 91-page explanatory statement--posted overnight, represents Congress' last hope at passing a major jobs bill before the November elections and prevents transportation authority and the student loan interest rate cut from expiring this weekend. The flood insurance program is set to expire at the end of July. Transportation authority is renewed through fiscal year 2014, while the rate cut is extended to July 1, 2013 and the flood insurance program is renewed for another five years.
The deal is based largely on a bipartisan transportation bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate earlier this year, spearheaded by Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., the chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the Environment and Public Works Committee. The two released a celebratory joint statement around 1 a.m. Thursday morning.
Included in the bill's many provisions is a two-thirds consolidation of highway programs and the shortening, or in some cases elimination, of some environmental reviews for certain types of infrastructure projects, often referred to as "streamlining." The streamlining provisions turned out to be a key House Republican hangup in the final days of negotiations, but House conferees from both parties yesterday seemed optimistic that the compromises will pass into law.