U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) heralded final Senate and House approval Friday of a package of legislative bills that will bolster federal transportation funding for roads, bridges and transit systems, prevent the doubling of student loan interest rates, and extend the federal flood insurance program for property owners in flood-prone areas.
With deadlines looming Sunday (July 1) for crucial congressional action on highway funding, student loan rates and authorization of the National Flood Insurance program, congressional negotiators late this week reached agreement on the package. After final passage Friday afternoon by the House and the Senate, the legislation now goes to the desk of President Obama, who is expected to sign it.
Leahy said, "For weeks partisan gridlock has prevented action on these pressing issues facing the American people and communities across the nation, and the legislative standstill has produced needless uncertainty and anxiety. The July 1st deadline has always been there, but only now, with the deadline at the doorstep, has it become possible to overcome obstruction and achieve action. These are programs and decisions that affect every Vermonter and every American in some way, and millions of people in direct and profound ways. It does not speak well for the obstructionists that they once again have dragged millions of people to the brink of a needless train wreck, but it's a relief that bipartisanship finally prevailed to get this job done."
On transportation funding Leahy said: "As Vermont continues to upgrade our infrastructure and repair the damage from Irene, this is an essential infusion of construction funding into repairing and rebuilding our state's roads, bridges and transit systems."
On student loans he said: "College costs already strain families' pocketbooks, and doubling the student loan interest rate would have pushed many past the breaking point. This agreement prevents an interest rate hike for now, but it is not a permanent fix to a problem that saddles students with back-breaking debt. Congress must continue to work toward finding ways to make higher education affordable. The tremendous outpouring of appeals to Congress for action, from students and their families and others, was a key factor in making this interest rate solution possible."
On flood insurance he said: "This agreement will help protect insurance participants from catastrophic losses, and it will allow pending home sales and re-financings to continue. With Irene and the other flood disasters in Vermont, we saw first-hand how important the National Flood Insurance Program is in helping people rebuild their homes, businesses and lives. This long-term extension of the program removes uncertainty and will protect towns and property owners throughout Vermont from the next disaster."