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BREAKING THE ROADBLOCK

Only Congress would connect interest rates on college loans and transportation. But only Congress would wait until the last minute to resolve issues that should have been decided months ago if not for partisan gridlock. There's nothing like a firm deadline to force a decision, even if it makes for strange bedfellows.

Federal funding for highway programs runs out Saturday, and another 30-day extension won't cut it. Interest rates on subsidized student loans will double on Sunday if Congress doesn't act to maintain the current 3.4 percent. Even Washington wouldn't be so irresponsible that it would allow road projects to grind to a halt in a weak economy and student loan rates to soar.

Ta-da. Suddenly, there is a match made in heaven - or at least in the backrooms of the Capitol.

House and Senate leaders late Tuesday were discussing combining transportation and student loans into one big deal that would be approved by the end of the week. The Senate passed a reasonable two-year transportation bill in March, but it stalled over negotiations with the House over issues such as gutting environmental reviews and the Keystone XL pipeline. The deadlock over maintaining the student loan rate has been how to pay for it. The latest brainstorm in this mix involves changes in how companies figure their contributions to pension plans.

It's not pretty. But it beats campaigning on stalling road projects and raising interest rates on college kids.

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