Yesterday (Oct. 27), the House of Representatives heard manufacturers and voted 313-118 to re-open and reauthorize for four years the U.S. Export-Import Bank. “Ex-Im,” some pending export deals, and related jobs have been on a cliff since this summer when the bank’s charter expired, but strong majorities of both Republicans and Democrats voted to let the bank resume using its credit tools to support exports of U.S. products, including utility and medical equipment. The House also approved a short extension of current law on federal highways and transit in order to prepare the way for bicameral consideration of an overdue long-term fix. With these actions, the House showed itself ready to move on issues important to NEMA companies.
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) put it simply during the final debate on Ex-Im: “The Export-Import Bank equals jobs.”
The Ex-Im bill, championed by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), is unlikely to pass the Senate on its own, but similar provisions were included in the highway bill passed this summer. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated that as conference negotiations with the House approach, Ex-Im could continue its hitched ride on the highway bill.
Last week, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, led by Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), amended and approved its own bipartisan highway bill that should go the House floor next month. Why does NEMA care? Two main reasons: First, our manufacturers rely on the nation’s interstates, bridges, etc., as essential links in their supply chain and deliveries to customers. Keeping transportation infrastructure in good repair and even improving it through application of new technologies makes sense for manufacturers who move materials and merchandise not only from A to B but also from A to Z and everywhere in between.
The second reason is those new technologies. Whether it’s intelligent transportation systems (ITS) devices supplied by members of NEMA’s Transportation Management Section, electric vehicle charging stations, or roadway lighting, elements of infrastructure are an important market for many NEMA companies.
Although the funding sources have not been finalized yet, the House legislation matches the Senate’s proposal (passed in July) and NEMA recommendations for its length: six years to provide some stability and planning time to move ITS deployment and other projects from the drawing board through deployment and into operation.
Although there may be some potholes in the road ahead, the House is moving again on trade and transportation.