Get highway, Ex-Im Bank bills done

Nearly lost in the kerfuffle late last week as Republicans traded barbs on the Senate floor were at least two important pieces of legislation: reauthorization and funding for the Highway Trust Fund and revival of the now-mothballed Export-Import Bank.

It was a proposal to roll reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank into the highway bill that caused the temper tantrum in the Senate, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz calling Senate Majority Leader and fellow — and we use the term “fellow” loosely — Republican Mitch McConnell a liar for allowing a vote on the bank. Cruz and other conservative Republicans oppose the Ex-Im Bank.

We’ve called several times for continuation of the bank’s services. It provides loans, loan guarantees and insurance that promotes U.S. exports to other countries from small, medium and large businesses. It’s self-supporting and actually returns a profit to the Treasury, while facilitating trade that supports jobs at companies as large as Boeing on down to small businesses throughout the county.

This time, however, we can’t recommend passage of the Senate bill, which the Senate may or may not pass before it joins the House for its August recess. House leadership has already called the bill dead on arrival. As much as Washington state and the nation need the services of the Ex-Im Bank, the Senate’s transportation bill is flawed and doesn’t go far enough as a long-term correction of our neglect of highways, bridges and other transportation infrastructure.

Although sold as a six-year bill, it includes funding for only three years, allowing the Senate to sidestep the difficult but necessary debate on an increase in the federal gasoline tax. Simply put, three years of funding isn’t close to adequate.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., who represents the 2nd Congressional District, points out another flaw in the Senate bill: The legislation would change the funding formula for ferries, favoring passenger ferries, which are more common on the East Coast, over vehicle ferries, which make up the entirety of Washington State Ferries’ 24-vessel fleet. Initially, the change in formula would not result in less money for the state ferry system but could if overall funding were reduced later.

Because the Highway Trust Fund expires on Friday, Congress has very little time to resolve this. The House is proposing a three-month extension, previously five months, that would give Congress time to tackle a longer-term bill when it returns in September. A short-term extension would at least allow highway projects now underway or scheduled to begin soon to continue without interruption.

Longer term, Larsen and others in the House have proposed the Grow America Act, which would inject $478 billion into the federal Highway Trust Fund. That scale of investment is necessary and it is likely to require an increase in the federal gas tax of about 8 to 10 cents a gallon. It’s time for Congress to have that debate.

Also on its to-do list when it returns in September, the House and Senate also must reopen the Export-Import Bank. Further delay could jeopardize deals that businesses large and small depend upon.

And if it can do both without resorting to personal attacks, all the better.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, Aug. 10

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Melinda Parke sits inside her Days Inn motel room as her son, Elijah, sleeps on his chair behind her Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Purchase of hotel as shelter can be effective tool

The county’s investment of federal aid will serve those who need shelter and supportive services.

Demand CDC send more monkeypox vaccine to Washington state

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent Washington state a… Continue reading

Snake River dams’ power easily replaced

A recent letter regarding the Snake River dams being vital to state’s… Continue reading

Analysis: GOP’s knees jerk quickly in reaction to Trump raid

Those who shouted ‘lock her up’ over Clinton’s emails now claim a ‘witch hunt’ over classified documents.

Comment: Lack of context in Amnesty report benefits Russia

In trying to be impartial, the rights group has provided the Russian invasion with a propaganda tool.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, Aug. 9

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Teresa Reynolds sits exhausted as members of her community clean the debris from their flood ravaged homes at Ogden Hollar in Hindman, Ky., Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Editorial: How many billion-dollar disasters will it take?

A tally of climate disasters shows an ever-increasing toll of costs and lives. Congress must act.

A group of Volunteers of America crisis counselors and workers meet with Gov. Jay Inslee, left, after the governor toured their facility and gave a brief address about mental health services on Thursday, July 28, 2022, outside the VOA Behavioral Health Crisis Call Center in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Our support makes sure lifeline is there in crises

The new 988 crisis line is seeing an increase in calls that speaks to the need for mental health care.

Most Read