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In keeping student loan rates low, Congress sends hidden message

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Eventually, Congress came up with some $20 billion to pave the way for the student loan/transportation/flood insurance package to proceed. For instance, it changed how companies calculate their pension obligations and increased fees the federal government collects at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

Then there is flood insurance, of which the federal government is the only provider. Advocates argued that allowing the program to lapse for the sixth time since 2008 would put pressure on some housing markets. Republicans and Democrats hashed out a compromise that attempts to bring the private sector into the flood-insurance market in the long term. But a vote foundered on an unrelated matter: Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky wanted a flood-insurance vote to include a vote on an amendment regarding a so-called “personhood” measure, defining life as beginning at conception.

Finally, the $109 billion transportation bill was yet another reminder of political pressures on policymaking. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D) of California and Jim Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma crafted a bipartisan transportation bill that won approval of nearly three-quarters of the Senate back in March.

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