Congressman Charles B. Rangel voted with the majority of the House to pass H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, which includes a broad package that extends transportation funding, the 3.4% subsidized Stafford loan rate, and the Flood Insurance program. The Senate passed a bipartisan version of the bill with 74 votes more than 100 days ago, but the House had previously been unable to come to terms with its upper chamber.
"Although some important provisions were the price of the compromise - like rail financing and rigorous environmental reviews - this bill will spur economic growth and help millions of Americans, especially students," Rangel said. "This transportation bill is a good compromise between the Senate, the House and the two Parties."
The Surface Transportation Extension Act will create or save more than 2 million jobs, authorize highway and transit programs for more than two years at current levels, make key reforms consolidating transportation programs and cut red tape, and leverage federal resources to expand public-private partnerships in transportation.
It also addresses a very important issue unrelated to transportation: the interest rate on need-based student loans. In 2007, Democrats enacted legislation that halved the student loan rate from 6.8% to 3.4%. That was set to expire on July 1, 2012. After months of stalling and posturing, House Republicans agreed to vote with Democrats to extend the rate cut only two days before the expiration date.
"This is a big victory for the 7.4 million American college students whose rates would have doubled," Rangel said. "422,670 New Yorkers will benefit from this rate extension in the 2012-2013 academic year, saving about $1000 for each borrower."
"I am glad that after manufacturing yet another crisis in Washington, creating uncertainty for businesses, state and local governments across the rest of the country, House Republicans have finally relented in their partisan ways and given in to passing a job-creating transportation bill," Rangel continued. "Now it's time to join my Democratic Colleagues in supporting the middle class, putting Americans back to work and securing our country's future."
The House passed the bill 373-52, with all voting Democrats in support and 52 Republicans opposed, while the Senate passed the bill 74-19 with 23 Republicans joining every Democrat in supporting the measure.