Snap Fact #237
President Obama Gains a Double (Arguably Triple) Victory For the Good of the Country! 
Our Chess Master has done it again. This time, in a stunning two-fer that was overshadowed by the Supreme Court victory, and therefore lightly reported, the President got two important pieces of legislation through the Congress while getting the pressure for the controversial oil pipeline withdrawn from this debate. The President’s achievement is underlined by the fact that this is the first long term transportation spending bill passed by Congress in 7 years

After years of resistance, Congress finally approved a $109 billion transportation bill on June 29, 2012. There were two outstanding bonuses that came with the Bill. First, the extension of the low-interest rate government-subsidized student loan amendment was attached. Second, the Republican threatened Keystone XL Oil Pipeline amendment was defeated and therefore not attached to this bill as the Republicans demanded. (Watch for important breaking news on the Keystone situation in tomorrow’s SNAP-CAP) 

The bill specifically allocates funding for highway projects that will save an estimated 2 to 3 million jobs. At the same time it will keep the current 3.4 percent student loan rate intact for yet another year. This eleventh hour reprieve came merely two days before the rate was to have doubled for over 7 million college students, costing them an extra $1,000 a year in these hard times. 

These two things that the Republicans have stood obstinately against sailed through both houses by a 373-52 vote in the House and a 74-19 vote in the Senate. How did the President accomplish this feat? How did common sense finally prevail over self-defeating partisan politics?

Part of the answer to these victories was the President taking these issues on the stump and rallying up support from the voters. At every opportunity, and there were many, he asked voters to contact their representatives and urge them to pass jobs bills and hold the student loan rate steady.

The other part of the answer to how this was accomplished is political compromise. The Republicans have finally realized that they have painted themselves into a political corner by their relentless obstructionism, and they have finally understood how self-defeating their scorched-earth policy has been.

So they decided to compromise. The President and the Democrats gained the extension, the Republicans were able to eliminate the 6 month grace period that students now have after completing school. Graduate students will be under more pressure because they will now have to start to repay their student loans after 2 years in Grad School.
The biggest block to agreement was how to pay the 6 billion cost of the extension. Republicans wanted the costs paid for by repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer; while the Democrats wanted some privately-owned companies to pay higher payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare.

In the end, the two sides agreed that it would be paid for by limiting companies' tax breaks for pension payments and limiting federal subsidies of student loans. As in most negotiations neither party got all it wanted but the ultimate result was achieved for the 7 million students.

Regarding the compromises on transportation, Congress voted for funding for the construction of highways, bridges and other transportation projects for two years in every state and in every congressional district throughout the country. 

The major compromise here was that that the Republicans backed down on their insistence on tying the Keystone XL pipeline to this bill, along with their adding language to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating harmful coal ash emitted by power plants. The Democrats had to go along with the Republican policy of streamlining and hastening review, approval, and completion of construction projects. 

The Democrats also gave up increased funding for transportation as well as giving the states more flexibility to opt out. Both sides agreed that projects should be solely infrastructure as opposed to beautification projects.
The Bill going to the President’s desk also includes several highway safety features and reauthorizes flood insurance for another 5 years for five and a half million people. The bill also includes provisions requiring that 80 percent of fines paid under the Clean Water Act by the BP oil company for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster be set aside for Gulf Coast states to restore affected areas. 

Not a bad deal after all! The President is expected to quickly sign this Bill that he has been pushing and fighting so hard for.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opined, “This legislation proves that when Republicans decide to work with Democrats, we can do a lot to move our economy forward.” 

Speaker Boehner called the bill “far from perfect,” but thanked both parties for working to resolve disagreements on how to pay for the measure. He said Republicans plan to keep fighting to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was not included in the final deal.