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Congress approves 5-year $305 billion highway funding bill

Extremely good news for a change from Washington D.C. We have been waiting a long time for this.

From NAM’s Manufacturing Economy Daily

On Thursday, Congress approved a five-year $305 billion highway funding bill, which is now headed to President Obama for his signature. According to The Hill (12/3, Laing, Marcos) and several other news outlets, the White House has said that the President is planning to sign the bill.

Most news sources, including USA Today (12/3, Jansen), describe the measure as a product of bipartisanship, with the House voting 359 to 65 and the Senate voting 83 to 16 to approve the bill. The article highlights business groups’ praise for the legislation, quoting NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons saying, “This bill is a big step forward and a desperately needed long-term investment in our nation’s infrastructure.”

The National Association of Manufacturers (12/4, Micetich) also highlights the responses of Timmons and Tenneco Inc. Chairman and CEO and NAM Board Chair Gregg Sherrill to Congress’s action on a long-term highway bill, with Timmons saying that “our nation’s transportation infrastructure has fallen behind for at least the previous decade” due to delays and debates in Congress, actions that are “inexcusable…and unacceptable to manufacturers and job creators. … Finally, we can begin to get back on track and invest in infrastructure to ensure manufacturing competitiveness.”

According to Timmons, the bill represents “bipartisan legislation that will help manufacturers in the United States compete and win in the global economy.” Sherrill stated that the “well-funded, long-term surface transportation bill represents progress, but manufacturers will not rest on one day’s success in Washington. We will continue to work with Congress, this President and future Presidents to ensure that a commitment to improving our infrastructure to stay globally competitive remains a priority.”

The Roseburg (OR) News-Review (12/3, Cegavske) reports that Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said that the highway bill “won a level of broad bipartisan support that’s unusual in Congress these days.” According to the article, DeFazio said he spoke with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “who anticipates President Barack Obama will sign the bill…even though the plan falls short of the six-year $400 billion plan Foxx had called for.” The News-Review adds that the Department of Transportation “estimates that level of investment is needed in order to prevent infrastructure from deteriorating.”

The Hill (12/4, Laing) reports that Secretary Foxx “applauded lawmakers” for passing the bill. Foxx is quoted as saying, “After 36 extensions, hundreds of congressional meetings, two bus tours, visits to 43 states, and so much uncertainty, it has been a long and bumpy ride to a long-term transportation bill.” He added, “It’s not perfect, and there is still more left to do, but it reflects a bipartisan compromise I always knew was possible.”

The AP (12/4) outlines the “key elements” of the transportation bill, including provisions renewing the Export-Import Bank, allocating “$200 million to help commuter railroads install positive train control technology,” and requiring that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration remove truck companies safety scores from a public website. The bill also places a “focus” on so-called “freight-corridors” by designating $4.5 billion “for a new competitive grant program for nationally significant freight and highway projects and $6.3 billion for a national highway freight program that uses a formula to apportion money to states.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times (12/3, A18, Nixon, Ivory, Subscription Publication) reports the bill contains “dozens of policy changes that could affect drivers, riders and anyone else who uses, builds or renovates the nation’s roads, bridges, rails and transit systems.” It goes on to detail a number of those provisions, which the Times says have “garnered little attention.”

In its “Two-Way” blog, NPR (12/3, Geewax) identifies the highway bill’s “winners” and “losers.” The blog lists the Ex-Im Bank among the winners. The Bank’s charter expired earlier this year, but the highway bill includes a five-year reauthorization of the Bank. Oil companies, freight companies, and young veterans are also among the bill’s winners, according to NPR. The article says that “big banks are the big losers,” adding that the highway bill “reduces the dividend payments made by the Federal Reserve to banks with assets exceeding $10 billion.”

Congress Passes Export-Import Bank Provision As Part Of Transportation Bill. The Hill (12/4, Needham) reportson Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives “took a step toward reviving the Ex-Im Bank, by voting to renew the embattled institution’s funding as part of a five-year federal transportation spending measure.” The NAM and other business groups “urged lawmakers to back the broad-ranging compromise, putting them on notice that they would key vote — or take particular account of votes — on the highway measure.” In a statement, House Financial Services Committee Stephen Fincher (R-TN) stated, “Today’s vote puts us one step closer to ensuring our exporters have a seat at the table and are able to compete on a level playing field with other nations.”

In a separate piece, The Hill (12/4, Needham) reports that late on Thursday, the Senate approved the transportation bill, which included a provision renewing the Ex-Im Bank’s charter for five years. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) commented, “We brought the Export-Import Bank back to life so American manufacturers and workers can compete against our foreign competitors on a level playing field,” adding, “We should ship goods, not jobs, overseas.” NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons stated, “The Ex-Im Bank is critical to keeping America competitive in the global economy.” Timmons added that it was unfortunate that “a small but vocal minority of House members let the bank lapse in the first place.”

The Washington Post (12/4, Ho, Kane) highlights the pro-business lobbyist’s push “for the renewal of the Export-Import Bank,” noting the group, “led by” the NAM, “spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pressuring lawmakers to renew the credit export agency.” As stated by NAM vice president of external relations, Ned Monroe, “We did everything in our power for several years to make sure we were protecting manufacturing jobs in the U.S.”

NAM’s senior vice president of policy and government relations Aric Newhouse commented, “A priority like Ex-Im is something that we looked to move in whatever vehicle is going to get signed into law.” Newhouse added, “What matters less to us is the vehicle, the form, the process. The Washington game of what package it’s going to catch a ride on — we play it because we have to. But we’re agnostic. What matters to us is that it’s signed into law.”

A post by the National Association of Manufacturers (12/4, Drogus) highlights Timmons’ praise of Congress’s action on the Ex-Im Bank, with Timmons saying that the provision to renew the Bank “is a victory for manufacturers of all sizes as well as for workers here in the United States. The Ex-Im Bank is critical to keeping America competitive in the global economy.” Timmons also expresses hope that we will “never faced with such a difficult situation again.”

Meanwhile, Neenah Enterprises, Inc. President and CEO and NAM Small and Medium Manufacturers Group Chair Tom Riordan commented, “The Ex-Im Bank supports jobs at small manufacturing companies across this country, so the passage of this bill is great news for the families who depend on those jobs.” Riordan added, “We’re glad that Congress finally listened to the voices of manufacturers. We will never be afraid to speak out and hold our leaders accountable when congressional action—or inaction—threatens our competitiveness. But today, we simply say ‘thank you.’”

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (12/4, Connelly) notes that the NAM was among the “supporters” of the Ex-Im Bank, the closure of which had “serious consequences for ordinary American workers,” as seen by General Electric’s shifting of jobs abroad and Boeing losing satellite contracts.

Also reporting on the Ex-Im Bank renewal was Reuters (12/3, Morgan), reporting on the House, and a separate Reuters(12/4, Morgan) piece, reporting on the Senate.

Associated Industries of Missouri is the sole official designated partner of the National Association of Manufacturers in Missouri.

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