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As the ramp-up to this fall’s midterm elections cranks into full speed, it’s important to understand what the Congressional Boating Caucus is, which members the recreational marine industry needs to support, and what issues are at stake if the caucus is weakened by unfavorable election results.

For more than 30 years, the Congressional Boating Caucus has been the voice of the recreational boating industry in the halls of Congress. This bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators understands how important recreational boating is as a leading contributor to America’s booming $689 billion outdoor recreation economy.

Co-chaired by U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., and Nancy Mace, R-S.C., and Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., the caucus includes more than 100 members of Congress. The caucus supports the interests of recreational boaters and industry manufacturers. From advocating for trade policies that maintain international competitiveness to advancing common-sense conservation and infrastructure policies, the Congressional Boating Caucus supports the more than 100 million Americans who go boating each year, supporting nearly 700,000 jobs and more than 35,000 businesses. Caucus members from coastal and inland regions have worked tirelessly together to ensure the continued health of the industry.

Several boating champions in the U.S. Senate are up for re-election in November, along with the more than 100 Congressional Boating Caucus members in the U.S. House of Representatives who are on the ballot every two years. It is imperative that boaters and our industry support these members.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Ind., Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Ind., Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is a leading advocate for allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to retain and reinvest visitation fees for outdoor recreation access projects.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Ind., is a co-sponsor of the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act, which reduces barriers to getting people outdoors.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., spearheaded efforts for small-business relief during the first Covid-19 relief packages in 2020.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is an original co-sponsor of the Great American Outdoors Act, resulting in billions of dollars for conservation and recreation infrastructure projects.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, was instrumental in passing the Modern Fish Act, which made the largest change to recreational fisheries management in decades.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., represents a large boating industry state and is a key supporter of the Great American Outdoors Act.

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., is leading efforts to re-establish the exclusion process for products affected by tariffs on imports from China.

The policy issues that these and other members of the Congressional Boating Caucus are working on will benefit businesses and boaters alike. They include eliminating the United Kingdom’s 25 percent retaliatory tariffs on American-made boats and engines; restoring the exclusion process for marine components, materials and parts affected by Section 301 Tariffs on imports from China, and creating clarity around the exclusion process; advancing the Providing Resources for Emergency Preparedness and Resilient Enterprises Act, which would give small businesses access to low-interest, fixed-rate loans for climate-resiliency upgrades; and reauthorizing the Water Resources Development Act while providing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with additional resources for boating infrastructure and access points.

Individuals of all political affiliations enjoy boating, and the Congressional Boating Caucus reflects this reality. As the country and economy emerge from the most acute effects of the pandemic, boating continues to show signs of incredible resilience. Spending time on the nation’s waters with loved ones remains a safe activity that comes with mental health benefits.

The U.S. recreational boating industry saw near-record demand in 2021, and that momentum is expected to endure into this year. The Congressional Boating Caucus has been, is and will be a key partner in the continued success of the industry. We need to keep that caucus strong. 

Tillie Fowler is senior vice president of government relations and regulatory affairs at the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue.

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