Montana Dem Max Baucus to Chair Senate Transpo Subcommittee

We at Streetsblog have been saying that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will be a key player in the transportation debate this session, counterbalancing the conservative House as they, together with the administration and the Senate Banking Committee, craft a six-year reauthorization. The EPW could play a key role in tempering House attempts to cut infrastructure spending to the bone and prioritize traditional highway projects over urban transit, intercity rail, or metropolitan planning. We’ve already seen debates within EPW on the role of bike facilities in an infrastructure bill.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the full committee, stood up for biking as a mode of transportation in that hearing, it’s worth noting. And yesterday she issued a statement in support of the president’s ambitious transportation budget.

Today, the committee announced the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee members for this session. Montana Democrat Max Baucus returns as committee chair.

Sen. Max Baucus will chair the EPW subcommittee on transportation. Photo:Ghanbari/AP#

Democrats:
Senator Max Baucus (MT), Chair
Senator Thomas R. Carper (DE)
Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (NJ)
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (MD)
Senator Bernard Sanders (VT)
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
Senator Tom Udall (NM)
Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) (ex officio)

Republicans:
Senator David Vitter (LA), Ranking Member
Senator John Barrasso (WY)
Senator Jeff Sessions (AL)
Senator Mike Crapo (ID)
Senator Mike Johanns (NE)
Senator John Boozman (AR)
Senator James M. Inhofe (OK) (ex officio)

The lineup isn’t very different from the last session, with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) returning as chair. Baucus is a rural highway guy. At an EPW hearing last month, he bragged that Montana has “more federal highway miles per capita than any other state.” He didn’t say anything about transit, nor did he take sides on the bike path issue. But he did say, ”We love our highways and we need them.”

Most of the rest of the Democratic lineup, however, are big transit supporters. Carper actually stood up for a gas tax increase last year, which almost no other sitting lawmaker has been willing to do. Cardin fought to get revenue from the climate bill devoted to transportation. Lautenberg tried every trick in the book to keep New Jersey Governor Chris Christie from killing the ARC Tunnel.

The Republicans on the subcommittee are overwhelmingly from rural states — Barrasso from Wyoming, Sessions from Alabama, Crapo from Idaho — and Ranking Member David Vitter of Louisiana has long advocated for highway building and against environmental measures.