Washington —The U.S. House and Senate approved legislation Friday to fund highway repairs that will employ as many as 2.8 million workers. The omnibus measure also keeps student loan interest rates from doubling to 6.8 percent and and cracks down on Asian carp in the Great Lakes.
The Senate voted 74-19 and the House voted 373-52 to approve the measure that includes a $120 billion, two-year highway measure.
The highway bill will result in more than $2 billion over the next two years for road projects in Michigan and another $261 million over the next two years for Michigan transit projects.
“Funding transportation infrastructure improvements at robust levels is one of the most obvious things we can do to help boost the U.S. economy,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit.
If a deal had not been reached on the student loan program, 7.4 million student borrowers, including 303,000 in Michigan, would have taken on debt for each year they would have attended college.
“While there is still a lot of work left to do to make college more affordable, this deal is a step in the right direction ,which ensures that 303,000 college students in Michigan won’t take on an extra $1,000 in debt next year,” said Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.
The deal only covers a one-year extension of the interest rate reduction.
“This is a bill about jobs,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.
The White House praised the bill.
“We are pleased that Congress has finally passed a bipartisan bill to stop student loan interest rates from doubling, and put Americans to work rebuilding our nation’s roads and bridges,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Democrats won in convincing House Republicans to drop a provision that would have required approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
The highway bill doubles fines on automakers who fail to recall vehicles to $35 million from the current $17 million. But it left out many new safety requirements sought by the Senate.
“We really should have taken this opportunity to strengthen our passenger vehicle protections,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., chairman of
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