Where Is John Mica as Congress Takes Transpo Programs to the Brink?

Over the past month or two, I couldn’t help noticing that Rep. John Mica, chair of the Transportation Committee in the House, seemed completely consumed with fingerpointing at federal agencies. While the country’s transportation programs neared a crisis point — and indeed, there is no other way to describe the current deadlock over a transpo bill – the top dog in the House was barking up a whole other tree.

Why isn't Chairman Mica making the rounds of news shows to talk about the transportation bill?

The House and Senate are locked in a battle royale over funding levels, pipeline approvals, environmental reviews, transit operations, street safety programs, and timelines. If they don’t figure it all out within the next 18 days – only six legislative work days for the House – transportation programs will expire, and reimbursements to states will halt. An estimated three million jobs hang in the balance.

That’s a pretty big responsibility for the transportation chairman. He must be staying up nights trying to craft a solution, right?

It’s hard to say what Mica is doing behind closed doors, but by the looks of his press machine, it looks like he’d rather be bird-dogging the Obama administration. His recent TV appearances have all been opportunities to express outrage over the conduct of federal agencies: inefficiencies at the Transportation Security Administration, partying at GSA conferences, even wasted office space at federal buildings.

His committee’s press release today, as conference talks break down: an attack on the EPA for daring to regulate clean water.

Mica’s committee office may not be talking much about the $109 billion surface transportation bill, but it sure is focused like a laser on this EPA “power grab.” This is the third press release this week on that issue.

Of course, there should be oversight of the TSA, the EPA, and GSA. But is it just me, or does this flurry of press attacks look a little more partisan than policy? Where is Mica’s urgent call to get a bill done?

Given the House GOP’s obstinate insistence on attacking the worthier parts of the Senate transpo bill, it might be something of a blessing that Mica has been quiet during conference negotiations. Even so, it’s a curious silence.

Insiders say his vigilance regarding oversight of Obama administration agencies may be more than just your ordinary partisan posturing. Mica is term-limited at the helm of T&I after this year, and given the quagmire the reauthorization process has become, some doubt that leadership will grant him the waiver he’s requested so he can continue as chair. Rumors have been circulating for a while that House leaders might be looking for new blood to run T&I.

So, word has it that Mica has his eye on the chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee — the only other committee he serves on. Maybe he’s just trying to prove he’s got the stuff to follow in Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)’s footsteps, sniffing after everything the Obama White House does in a search for some wrongdoing to exploit.