Send in Your Transpo Questions for the 112th Congress

John Boehner takes the gavel. Photo: ##
John Boehner takes the gavel. Photo: ##

The new Congress has been sworn in and John Boehner has been elected Speaker of the House, 241-173. Nancy Pelosi has handed him the (strangely over-sized) gavel and he just took the oath of office. In his acceptance speech, he stressed fiscal discipline and spending cuts.

The first vote the new Congress will take will be on new rules governing the Congress, including the one we told you about Monday that would allow Congress to withhold transportation funds. By holding the money in the bank, lawmakers can take credit for deficit reduction. They’ll vote on that in a few hours.

Meanwhile, the Senate is getting ready to vote on new filibuster rules. The new rules would make it harder for one senator to block popular legislation. It aims to break the paralysis that has beset the Senate recently, where a supermajority is required for every piece of legislation. The Senate has been the place where House bills go to die, often never even getting a vote. New rules could grease the skids for a little more action, a little less gridlock.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be checking in with the new members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. As I talk to them about their priorities for this session, I want to bring your questions with me. What would you ask of the freshmen members if you could sit down with them on their first week on the job?

11 thoughts on Send in Your Transpo Questions for the 112th Congress

  1. I’d ask them how they can honestly think that cutting transportation spending is in the best interest of the country…when we have an aging system that is falling apart and congestion-ridden, a highway trust fund that’s broke, not to mention that transportation investment spurs not just short-term economic recovery but long-term economic growth.

    Nevermind that China (in many ways our competitor) is spending oodles of money on their transportation network, including building what is now the world’s largest HSR system.

  2. I would ask them why so few of them have the courage to publicly call for creation of new revenue sources, or expansion of existing sources, to adequately fund our nation’s critical transportation infrastructure needs. I would also ask them why they feel it is acceptable to cut transportation spending in the name of deficit reduction while maintaining a bloated defense budget when our crumbling infrastructure poses a more serious risk to our national security than terrorists. Finally, I would ask them why they appear to be opposed to increased investment in so-called “alternative” transportation modes when we are on the verge of $5/gallon gas. We were woefully unprepared for the surge in “alternative” transportation demand during the last gas price spike and I would argue that we are in even worse shape today – entirely due to their lack of courage and vision.

  3. Somehow I think even Tea Partiers would understand the importance of improving transportation infrastructure. Maybe I overestimate them.

  4. Can you imagine a future where only a tiny minority of the population can afford to drive? How likely do you think that future is? If it’s at all likely, how are you preparing the country for it?

  5. Just like the article about avoiding “coercion,” don’t generalize the entire GOP with broad statements.

    Yes, those of us promoting broader approaches to transportation, including providing the transportation market with more choices, have our work cut out for us: there are some Republicans who are absolutely committed to “highway socialism” and more free parking and more subsidies for rural areas with low benefit-to-cost ratios.

    Since a comprehensive approach to transportation rests on merit, those of us advocating for it should not be shy about approaching Republicans with market pricing for parking and new roads as a way to make the transportation sector more competitive, and to frame bike/ped improvements as a way to reduce the temptation for big government to engage in eminent domain to seize private property for more public roadway widening.

    While these arguments won’t work universally – again, there are a variety of views among Congressional Republicans – these ideas will get a better reception that an “us vs. them” frame that “they” oppose what “we” want.

  6. I’d ask them why gasoline is still cheaper than it’s equivalent in bottled water. Why at least 50% of the taxes that the government receives from the consumption of NON-RENEWABLE resources aren’t spent on programs and initiatives to reduce dependency on those resources? When was the last time they rode a bicycle and took public transit? Do they think it’s wise to put petrol-dependent “leaders” in charge of the country’s transportation future?

  7. I’d ask them if they would be open to ending public subsidies for all energy sources. If fossil fuels aren’t the godsend that various Tea Party pols act like they are then shouldn’t they be able to compete with wind and solar energy without the $20 billion per year advantage that oil companies get?

  8. What is their vision for transportation and land use policy? Can they describe to us how they want federal funds spent on transportation?

  9. “Buy America” and protectionist measures disguised as safety regulations make American rail transit much more expensive for cities and states (some estimates put trainset procurement costs at twice what they are in Western Europe). Do you believe that the federal government should continue to apply standards to mass transit procurement that it wouldn’t dream of applying to regular cars? Which is more important to you – placating domestic labor interests, or allowing American cities to build mass transit for reasonable prices?

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