House GOP Slows Down Its Rush to Introduce Oil-and-Infrastructure Bill

Just this morning, Politico was reporting that the House would introduce the legislative text of its transportation proposal on Monday, but just a few short hours ago, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica gave a speech at the University of Virginia in which he said there would be no movement on the bill until next year. He also sent some encouraging signals that his committee won’t draft a bill that’s all about highways.

Committee staffers say that “these things hinge on when we can get floor action,” and leadership isn’t promising to bring the bill to the floor until January. Congress is taking a long holiday break this year, not coming back into session until January 17, after which it will immediately be interrupted by party conferences [PDF]. Unless this calendar changes, there won’t be significant time to devote to consideration of a major bill until February.

Attention has shifted in recent days from the House T&I Committee to Natural Resources, where lawmakers have considered three bills to open up oil drilling, with the idea that the revenues from that drilling would somehow fund infrastructure. Of the three bills, only one says anything at all about infrastructure, and that one doesn’t say much.

During his speech, Mica also reportedly called himself a “knuckle dragging conservative” but said you can’t “pave over the entire country” and said he has no plans to “do away” with Transportation Enhancements funding of bicycle and pedestrian projects (though his original proposal did eliminate dedicated funding for it).

  • RB

    What happened to Mica!?!?  He went from “Hang on to your shorts”, threatening to beat people up if a Bill didn’t get done in early 2011, to now do nothing.  WOW.  Our D.C. leadership has gone down the tubes 1000% from the Presiden to Congress. 

  • Anonymous

    I have a general question for Streetsblog: you take a strong stance on keeping federal funding as a source for bike/ped solutions. It seems the basic Republican message is to let the states decide whether or not, and to what extent, those bike/ped solutions are implemented. What is the problem in your view with sending those decisions to the state and even local level? After all, wouldn’t they know best how to implement these very localized projects? Some state DOTs aren’t very welcoming to bike/ped stuff, so why force it on them? They will probably just do something stupid like put a sidewalk along a massive highway. Other state DOTs can do much better. Why not block grant the whole thing, and leave a much smaller amount of federal funding for true interstate projects?

  • W Keith

    Replying to tach1… I think the Republican motive is to reduce overall funding by pointing out items which their rural electorate believe are unimportant (bike and ped projects). The hardline GOP are so deep in the pockets of big business that they want to destroy public ownership of anything as well water down any regs that benefit the average citizen. The sooner they have an excuse to avoid funding the program at reasonable levels, the sooner they can carry out selling our assets to the highest bidder… which means tolls… tolls that not only need to account for maintenance, but have a nice profit for the new corporate owner built-in.

  • Eric B

    @tach1:disqus There is a big difference between state DOTs and local governments when it comes to bike planning.  State DOTs are basically rural highway departments that sometimes dabble in urban areas.  They are by and large not equipped to build urban transportation systems.  Local and metropolitan governments are a different story.  If you gave cities like NYC and LA direct access to federal money, they would likely use it for multi-modal projects.  Federal block grants to states with no strings attached are a recipe for sprawl and highway expansion at worst, and the status quo at best.  Sending money to innovators at the local level is a different story.

    Inhofe always says his state doesn’t need bike paths.  That may be his state DOT’s party line, but his state’s urban areas probably would disagree.  Rural interests are overrepresented at the state level.

  • Thanks, @ba3e3f23c56af89e01463a5a0f3962df:disqus and @google-c3aea9ef191a24e0c2f778c167e53c1c:disqus : my sentiments exactly. The autocentrism of state DOTs is one of the biggest obstacles to meaningful transportation reform. States often tread over the more progressive wishes of their cities and metro areas, so while many may think it’s more democratic to let states, rather than the feds, decide these things, it often ends up squashing good ideas at the local level. Besides, as important as decentralized decision-making is, so is GOOD decision-making. A lot of states have shown that they’re just not making good choices with the money they get.