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Inslee takes lawmakers to task over Ex-Im bank

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 11, 2015

OLYMPIA – Eastern Washington’s Republican members of Congress should stop being “climate deniers” and work harder to reauthorize a key financing mechanism for international trade that helps the state, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.

 The Democratic governor shot back at Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Spokane, and Dan Newhouse, of Yakima, who two weeks ago wrote that his efforts to reduce carbon pollution “do not align with pro-growth policies.” The letter from the two House members was sent as Inslee prepared to leave for a trade mission to South Korea and Japan, and started by saying they appreciated his efforts to boost trade.

His proposals to limit carbon emissions and take more expansive looks at proposed coal terminals were bad for business, McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse wrote.

That prompted Inslee to write back, and bring up an issue that has Washington Republicans in a tough spot between the most conservative colleagues in their caucus and trade-dependent businesses in the state: the stalled reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which helps fund foreign trade deals. 

“I was disappointed but not surprised to see you echo climate deniers in arguing against action on carbon pollution,” Inslee wrote in a letter Thursday. “But I was surprised to see you express support for increasing international commerce as a priority, given that your party now controls both chambers of Congress and yet your House Republican caucus is blocking reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank.” 

The Ex-Im bank provides loans and guarantees so foreign buyers can get U.S. products in a timely manner and U.S. companies can avoid risks associated with overseas deals.

Inslee has long been an advocate of increased measures to reduce carbon emissions and proposed a carbon tax earlier this year as an alternative to an increase in the gasoline tax to help pay for new transportation projects. That proposal didn’t pass either house in the Legislature and the final transportation package he signed carried language that keeps state agencies from enacting any new rules on carbon pollution without legislative approval. Inslee later asked the Department of Ecology to explore rules that would be within existing laws. 

In his letter, Inslee focuses on the point of agreement between him and the representatives – that increased foreign trade is a key source of jobs in Washington – then jabs them over  delays in reauthorizing the bank. The sale of two Boeing jets has been delayed because financing isn’t available through the bank, he wrote.

“The Ex-Im Bank provides support to hundreds of Washington businesses and tens of thousands of Washington jobs … including in both of your districts,” he wrote. “On behalf of your state, I urge you to focus your energies on removing the road blocks that your caucus has needlessly placed in the way of the continued growth of Washington exports.” 

McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse’s office declined to continue the back-and-forth Thursday evening.

“We received the Governor’s letter, and the Congresswoman looks forward to finding time soon to discuss these issues and many others important to Washington state,” said a statement from McMorris Rodgers’ office.

“Congressman Newhouse has taken every opportunity to advocate for free trade, and he looks forward to working with Governor Inslee on all issues that will increase trade access for the state of Washington,” the Yakima Republican’s office said in an e-mail.

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