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Mark Trahant: Congress focuses on real issues

"Symbols are important in Congress. Appropriating money for defense wasn't symbolic enough (not like there's a war to worry about), so the leadership of the Senate put that on hold so members could talk about something really important, the protection of gun dealers and manufacturers from lawsuits. The new immunity will protect the gun industry from litigation because of criminal use of their weapons. It's long been a top priority of the National Rifle Association. Forget symbols, it's payoff time.

Congress also last week enacted the kind of legislation that few members ever get a chance to read, such as the Highway Bill. This bill has money for road projects, even ferries. This agreement includes a formula that supposedly "guarantees" each state 92 cents in federal grants for every dollar contributed to the Highway Trust Fund through gas taxes. That's a bump of a couple of cents -- and interesting in light of this region's fight over how we spend gas taxes. The Highway Bill totals some $286.4 billion over the next five years -- and as usual includes a fair amount of spending directed at special projects favored by individual members of the House and Senate.

The Energy Bill is a big book, too, at 1,725 pages. It's a chaotic mix of thoughtful reforms, corporate giveaways and destructive environmental practices all rolled into one piece of legislation."

Get the Story:
Mark Trahant: The paradox called democracy (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 7/31)

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