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PD Editorial: Huffman places a bet for water in the West and the Post Office

Rep. Jared Huffman, whose sprawling district covers the entire North Coast, has some big ideas about infrastructure, and he’s convinced his colleagues to include them in a new bill.

The Moving Forward Act, which was written by Democrats, would invest $1.5 trillion in American infrastructure. It’s the sort of bill that lawmakers and even President Donald Trump have talked about for years but never passed.

The idea of a huge infusion of cash to improve American infrastructure makes sense today more than ever. Spending like the CARES Act injects money into a flagging economy to help on an emergency basis. An infrastructure bill doesn’t just hand out money. It creates jobs and pays for improvements that are long overdue.

The infrastructure bill would address the nation’s crumbling bridges, inadequate public transportation, insufficient clean energy and more. Huffman, D-San Rafael, can take credit for some of its best elements.

The bill includes about $3.5 billion for Western water infrastructure projects. A big chunk of that spending would address storage needs in California and other drought-stricken areas by building both above- and below-ground reservoirs to capture water. Equally important, it would help the region use its water more wisely by building water recycling/reuse projects and desalination systems.

These shouldn’t be controversial ideas across party lines. Many of the areas hardest hit by drought are rural and tend to support Republicans. Water security benefits them just as much as anyone, more even. Hence diverse groups have endorsed Huffman’s proposal, from environmentalists to sport fishing enthusiasts to water districts.

Another of Huffman’s passion projects that made it into the bill would fund modernization at the U.S. Postal Service, especially the postal fleet. The boxy mail vans are aging quickly and get poor gas mileage. The bill has $6 billion for replacing them and requires that at least half of medium- and heavy-duty trucks bought through 2029 be electric or otherwise zero-emission.

With a fleet of more than 140,000 vehicles, the Postal Service burns a lot of fossil fuels and generates a lot of emissions. The bill also has billions for modernizing post office sorting equipment and other tools for greater efficiency.

Again, this shouldn’t be controversial. Modernizing the Postal Service is good for the bottom line.

Unfortunately, the entire infrastructure bill will be controversial for other reasons. Democrats wrote it without engaging Republicans. It therefore includes a wish list of progressive policy priorities that won’t fly with the GOP. That means the Republican-controlled Senate isn’t likely to adopt it.

Huffman just needs to make sure that his good ideas don’t go down with the ship. We understand the desire to hitch along with a big spending bill and make some progress on water and modernizing the Post Office, but it’s a long-shot bet. At least these ideas have a foothold in case the big bill returns next year in a newly elected Congress.

The Moving Forward Act cleared the the House on Wednesday. We hope the Senate will at least give it a fair look. There are elements, like Huffman’s, that Republicans could and should support. If the House version is a no-go, the Senate should pass their own infrastructure bill and hash out a compromise in a conference committee between the two chambers. It’s what everyone says they want.

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