President Barack Obama signed on Friday a transportation funding and student loan bill which passed Congress last week in a rare election-year compromise between Republicans and Democrats.
In an unusual show of bipartisanship, members of both parties were on hand for the White House ceremony, including members of the administration, Congress, as well as state and local governments.
"This is an outstanding piece of business. And I'm very appreciative of the hard work that Congress has done on it. My hope is that this bipartisan spirit spills over into the next phase," Obama said, encouraging members to pass larger infrastructure measures and "start doing more to reduce the debt burden that our young people are experiencing."
At the ceremony, he specifically recognized House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, a Republican from Florida. Standing behind him were Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat from Maryland.
After the law passed, the top two senators involved in the negotiations -- Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, and James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican -- released a join statement praising the bipartisan work.
"This bill will keep thousands of construction workers on the job rebuilding our nation's infrastructure," Obama said on Friday. "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 a thousand dollars more on their loan payments."
Both the student loan extension and transportation monies, which will fund projects in every state, were high on Obama's list of priorities. He had advocated for their passage in speeches and several of his weekly addresses. The bill also includes a re-authorization of the national flood insurance program.
The bill passed both houses of Congress in late June with a significant margin in a month which stood out for its partisanship in an already heated election year. Earlier that month, Republicans in the House voted to hold the president's attorney general in contempt over the administration's response to a Congressional investigation of the Fast and Furious "gun-walking" program. Democrats called it a political gesture.