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Obama signs student loans, highway jobs bill

President Barack Obama signs the Surface Transportation Bill, HR 4348, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 6, 2012. The bill maintains jobs on transportation projects and prevents interest rate increases on new loans to millions of college students. AP

(CBS News) Upon returning to the White House from his two-day bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania Friday, President Obama took to the East Room to sign legislation that will prevent the doubling of interest rates on new student loans. The law also authorizes $100 billion in highway and transportation spending over the next two years, which backers estimate will save or create 2.8 million jobs, mostly in construction.

Mr. Obama signed the law surrounded by construction workers and college students as well as members of Congress and other elected officials. The president had been pressing Congress to take action for months.

"These steps will make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans," he said shortly before signing the bill.

The bill passed Congress overwhelmingly last week after a contentious fight in Congress. Republicans eventually gave up their push for the bill to require approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the Associated Press reported, while Democrats agreed not to include certain environmental protections and biking and safety programs.

"My hope is that this bipartisan spirit spills over into the next phase, that we can start putting more construction workers back to well as making sure that now that we've prevented a doubling of student loan rates, we actually start doing more to reduce the debt burden that young Americans experience," Mr. Obama said Friday before signing the bill.

CBS News' Mark Knoller reports that the measure was the 508th bill signed into law by Mr. Obama since taking office. The Friday event marked his 35th formal bill-signing ceremony.