Student loan deal reached by Congress; transportation's up next

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Congress returns to work this week facing a couple of big deadlines on student loan interest rates and transportation. It looks as if lawmakers will tackle both topics in one fell swoop.

It’s a little like that 1980s candy commercial where people got peanut butter in a stranger's chocolate.

The peanut butter is student loans. Unless Congress acts, federally-subsidized Stafford loans will double to almost 7 percent starting Sunday.

Extending the lower interest rate will cost the federal government about $6 billion. Now it appears there’s an agreement about how to pay for that.

The chocolate is transportation. The Republican-led House sent the Senate another extension bill that contains environmental provisions Senate-majority Democrats don’t like.

The Senate approved a new two-year bill with funding House Republicans don’t like. June 30 is the deadline for both.

GOP House sources say it looks like the two issues that were deadlocked for months will combine in one big package. The House is waiting to see what the Senate does.

And Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, co-author of the Senate transportation bill, is remarkably quiet about the progress.

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