Analysis: Gridlock In Congress Over Student Loan And Transportation Funding | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Analysis: Gridlock In Congress Over Student Loan And Transportation Funding

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David Hawkings, CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Congress has up until June 30 to agree on funding for student loan rates and highway and surface transportation. If lawmakers don't act in time, loan rates will double and the transportation funding will expire.

David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks with WAMU Morning Edition's host Matt McCleskey on the significance of this legislative gridlock and the challenges for journalists who cover Capitol Hill. 

The likelihood that Congress will reach a deal for student loans funding:"Well this is the same story we talk about every couple of months. They face some deadlines and they work right up until the last minute on those deadlines. About half the time they do what we call, 'kick the can down the road.' It looks ... like that's where we're headed this time," says Hawkings. "The student loan bill is at a total impasse. The Republicans and Democrats have each traded back and forth ideas for how to pay for this. It would cost about $6 billion to extend that low student loan rate for one more year. That's a tiny rounding error in the grand scheme of things.  So the fact that they can't agree on that much, suggests that we're no where close to the so called 'grand bargain.'"

On transportation funding: "All kinds of disagreements about that. Not only how to pay for it, what to do to replenish the highway trust fund that's running out of money to fund public works. But also whether to give the Republicans what they want on this highway bill, which are an ease on environmental regulations on roads and a speeding up of the Key Stone Pipeline - pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico," says Hawkings. "If the Republicans don't get what they want in the next two weeks, they say they will kick the can down the road until after the election."

Covering the gridlock on Capitol Hill as a beat: "It is interesting. Good negotiations and impasse, up to a point, makes for good copy. People want to read what we write about the machinations, the back and forth. But it gets kind of exhausting to come up with new ways to talk about gridlock ... dysfunction ... partisan sniping," says Hawkings.  "It is however, a little bit good for business. But many advertisers, and some subscribers too, are so convinced that nothing is going to happen this year, that they've started to lose patience and starting to not give us the money we have come to rely on." 

Whether readers and the general public are fed up with the back and forth in Congress: "I have been in Washington for more than 20 years, it is undeniably the case that the old snide sniping about, 'they [Congress] can't figure it out but they'll get it done anyway,' that's gone," says Hawkings. "There is a true sense among the press corp here that things never been any worse. I think there is a genuine worry among those of us who care about Congress ... and the functioning of our government, that things really have locked up, the brakes have ceased up here."

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