By Jerry Cornfield, Everett Herald columnist
Nothing feeds a politician’s campaign coffers quite like a good partisan fight.
So it’s no surprise Democratic and Republican members of Congress across the country and here in Washington seized on Monday’s showdown (Oct. 7) then shutdown to raise campaign cash.
“Leadership is a privilege that House Republicans have done little to earn,” began an earnest email sent out by Democratic Congressman Rep. Rick Larsen of Everett. “This lack of leadership is about to result in a government shutdown.”
A few paragraphs later he concludes by asking for “$5, $10 or $25 to show the House Republicans that we’re fed up with their games and distractions. Stand with me, and let the majority party know that they need to earn the privilege of leadership.”
Fundraisers for Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene of Medina struck a more strident note with the freshman congresswoman’s donors.
“You’ve seen how Tea Party Republicans are willing to shut down the government and threaten the full faith and credit of the United States to try to get their way — we can’t afford to give them a chance in our state,” reads her email. “We need your help right now to ensure Suzan’s seat stays out of Tea Party hands.”
As they and other members of Congress tried to cash in on the political brawl, a leader of Common Cause urged them to stand down.
“One would hope that every member would be so embarrassed by this breakdown that they would voluntarily suspend fundraising,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president for strategy and programs for the nonpartisan political reform group. Neither Larsen or DelBene is facing a challenger in 2014. At least not yet.
Prospects of lawmakers passing a transportation funding package in a special session next month are dimming rapidly.
Republican senators are in no hurry to act on a $10 billion proposal put forth by Democrats and they haven’t been for some time.
It’s not what’s in it per se though most members of the Senate Majority Coalition shudder at the inclusion of a 10.5-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax. It’s what’s missing: all of the 10 reforms of state transportation policy offered up by the coalition this summer. Unless and until some of those proposed changes find their way into the proposal, they won’t be in the mood to pursue let alone forge an agreement.
“We’ve got to have some of these reforms,” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, the coalition’s point-man on transportation. “Not all 10 but at least three or four of them. If we don’t get a substantial number of the reforms we won’t have agreement on a revenue package because we won’t have enough votes to get it out of our caucus.”
King singled out three: streamlining the permit process including rolling back state-imposed rules on environmental protection which exceed federal requirements; revamping the way the state builds ferries and allowing companies outside of Washington companies to build them; and redirecting sales tax collected on construction projects from the state’s general fund into transportation.
None of these are new issues for lawmakers yet there have been few serious conversations on incorporating them into a final deal. Part of the reason is King and his caucus colleagues are busy traveling the state to solicit opinions on raising revenue and making reforms. Their listening tour, which had a stop in Everett, wraps up later this month.
King makes no predictions what will happen afterwards though he sounds skeptical.
“We are trying to move this forward. We are trying to gather information and come up with a package that has the buy-in from the public,” King said. “It is going to be tough but there’s a chance.”
— Editor’s note: Coverage of the state capitol by political reporter Jerry Cornfield is provided courtesy of the Everett Herald, a sister paper of the Journal and part of the Sound Publishing media group.