Rep. John Mica (R-FL) was confirmed today as the next Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
There have been some contested leadership elections this month but this wasn’t one of them. Mica’s position as chair was basically a foregone conclusion as soon as November’s election results came in.
After the Republican conference voted to confirm him, Mica said in a statement, “It is critical that Congress jumpstarts transportation projects to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and get people working.” He affirmed his eagerness to “pass stalled major surface transportation, aviation, and water resources bills.”
He also emphasized “cutting red tape to complete stalled projects,” which observers take to include limiting environmental assessments for planned infrastructure projects.
Mica enjoyed a close working relationship with Committee Chair Jim Oberstar before the elections flipped control of the Congress and ousted Oberstar after 18 terms. Since November, Mica has clarified some of his positions on transportation issues, including the fact that, while he believes high speed rail is basically a good idea, he doesn’t like the way the DOT is going about it.
“I am a strong advocate of high-speed rail, but it has to be where it makes sense,” Mica told the Associated Press. “The administration squandered the money, giving it to dozens and dozens of projects that were marginal at best to spend on slow-speed trains to nowhere.”
He’d even like to see his own state of Florida be removed from the high speed propects list.
He’s also a strong proponent of private sector investment in infrastructure, a theme we’re likely to see echoed often during the next session of Congress. As federal belts tighten, the money that is disbursed will need to have strong local and private partnerships.
In other committee news, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) was named Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) had wanted the position but House term limits didn’t allow him to serve more than six years as top Republican on the committee, no matter whether the Republicans were in the majority or the minority. Rogers is considered far friendlier to earmarks than Lewis.
And Rep. Fred Upton will be the new chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) ran into the same term-limits problem as Lewis. A waiver for him was deemed even less likely, as he’d embarrassed the party earlier this year with his famous apology to BP.