Highways, Bridges and Roads

Sen. Reid suggests deal to pay for transportation, student loan extensions

{mosads}Combining the pension reforms with the transportation bill would “provide sufficient resources to fund both a one-year extension of the current student loan interest rate and reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation programs,” Reid said.

“My preference would be to use the funds raised by these two proposals to pay for both measures, and pass them immediately – since as you know, both are critical to the economic security of middle class families, and both must be addressed before the end of June,” Reid wrote to the GOP leaders.

“However, if House Republicans are still not ready to pass the transportation jobs, I suggest that we use part of these offsets to pay for the student loan legislation, and pass that measure immediately so that middle class families will not see their interest rates double on July 1,” he continued. “The remainder of these offsets will still be available to finish completion of the transportation jobs bill once the conference committee completes its work.”

The deadline for the student loan interest rates to double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent is the same as the scheduled expiration of the current fund for road and transit projects. The House has passed a subsequent extension of transportation funding through Sept. 30, but the Senate has not yet taken up the measure.

A spokesman for McConnell said Thursday that the Senate GOP leader would consider Reid’s proposal to avoid both deadlines.

“We will review these new proposals and hope that they will finally review the bipartisan proposals we sent a week ago,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in a statement. “But bottom line, now that Democrats are willing to take this issue seriously, and not just use students as props, we may be making progress.”

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the speaker would also be willing to consider the offer from Reid too.

“We look forward to the Senate considering Senator Reid’s proposal – and if the Senate passes it, we will address it,” Steel said in a statement.

Bernie Becker contributed to this report.

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