Delta Queen deserves support

After decades of steaming up and down America’s waterways, the historic Delta Queen was tied up at Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2009. There, she serves as a floating hotel. Local and state safety officials seem to have no concerns about that.

But a 1966 federal law bans use of the Delta Queen for overnight trips. Much of the vessel is wood, and the law as well as the U.S. Coast Guard view that as a fire hazard.

For many years, Congress had granted the Delta Queen exemptions from the 1966 ban. But the grand lady’s luck ran out in 2009.

With their plates loaded down with weighty matters such as averting a “government shutdown” and dealing with Obamacare, members of the House of Representatives took a few minutes this week to approve a new, 15-year exemption for the Delta Queen.

For the break to become law, it will have to be approved by the U.S. Senate, where there is bipartisan support for such action. A bill mirroring the House measure has been introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. It is co-sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; and David Vitter, R-La.

Senators also are preoccupied with important business. But granting the exemption would take just a few moments – and senators should do it. Let’s get the Delta Queen back under steam.