After three-years of squabbling over road and transit spending in Congress, the $105 billion transportation bill became official on Friday, according to The Hill:
Obama has touted the highway bill as a jobs bill, and at the White House signing ceremony he was surrounded by construction workers and students. The ceremony began after the president concluded a two-day campaign trip through the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“First of all, this bill will keep thousands of construction workers on the job rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,” Obama said in a quick speech delivered less than an hour after he landed at Andrews Air Force base in suburban Washington.
“Second, this bill will keep interest rates on federal student loans from doubling this year, which would have hit nearly seven and a half million students with an average of $1,000 more on their loan payments,” he continued. “These steps are going to make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans.”
Republicans had sharply criticized the president for the unemployment numbers on Friday.
“Millions and millions of families are struggling and suffering because the president’s policies have not worked for them,” Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said at a press conference in New Hampshire, where he is on vacation with his family.
“This kick in the gut has got to end,” Romney addd.
Obama argued at the transportation bill signing on Friday that lawmakers in Congress should send him more bills like the measure he was signing into law.
“My hope is this bipartisan spirit spills over into the next phase,” Obama said. “That we can start putting more construction workers back to work – not just those that were already on existing projects that were threatened to be laid off – but also getting some new projects done.
“My message to Congress is the same thing I’ve been saying for months now — let’s keep going,” Obama continued. “Let’s keep finding ways to work together to grow the economy and help put more folks back to work. There’s no excuse for inaction where there’s so many Americans trying to get back on their feet.”
The bill Obama signed provides road and transit funding for the next two years. It also extends a 3.4 percent interest rate on student loans for one year and a flood insurance program for five.
Supporters of the transportation portion of the bill touted it as a bipartisan compromise.
“As a conferee and Chairman of the Committee responsible for making our transportation system safer, I’m pleased we approved a bill that’s bipartisan and makes smart investments in our national infrastructure and safety system,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a statement.
“Finding consensus is never easy, but this was a major priority and making the country’s roads, bridges, and highways safer and more efficient is good for all of us,” Rockefeller continued. “I know West Virginia can make good use of the over $420 million coming to the state next year to rebuild our highways.”