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House Transpo Committee Promises Bipartisanship, To Tackle Aviation First

Ranking Member Nick Rahall presents Chairman John Mica with a new gavel to run the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Ranking Member Nick Rahall presents Chairman John Mica with a new gavel to run the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Meet the new House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The committee's meeting this morning, the first of the 112th Congress, included twenty new Republican faces, 19 of whom are freshman representatives. The mostly administrative agenda didn't offer many chances for the committee members to talk policy, but even some of the freshmen's short introductions proved potentially revealing.

Chair John Mica and Ranking Member Nick Rahall each forcefully restated his commitment to keeping the committee running on bipartisan terms. "This has been one of the most bipartisan committees and it will continue to be," said Mica. In a rhetorical reach across the aisle, Mica also used the president's State of the Union call to invest in transportation as a springboard for his own remarks.

"There's no Republican bridges, there's no Democratic bridges, there's only American bridges," said Rahall. He urged committee members to "stand together, even against party leadership if necessary," to keep partisanship out of their work. He even serenaded Mica with a one-day-early rendition of Happy Birthday.

More importantly, both Mica and Rahall agreed on a proposed schedule for the committee: as previously reported, aviation reauthorization will come before the surface transportation bill.

That doesn't mean, however, that the surface transportation bill is being abandoned. "We're going to get the darn thing done," promised Mica. He also announced that the committee will take a listening tour across the country in mid-February to gather ideas from across the country. "I'm going to be as flexible as a Barbie doll," said Mica.

The Republican freshman also had a few interesting things to say. Here are a few that stood out.

    • Tom Reed, from Western New York, suggested that the House's new anti-spending fervor should perhaps spare transportation. "It's through our infrastructure that we can unleash the private sector," he said. "That's proper government spending."
    • Two representatives, Pennsylvania's Lou Barletta and New York's Richard Hanna, cited their private sector infrastructure building experience. Barletta founded the Interstate Road Marking Corporation, which became the largest pavement marker in Pennsylvania, and Hanna's construction company handled a variety of public and private projects.
    • Pat Meehan, who represents the Philadelphia suburbs, said that his district has "complex needs" ranging "from rail to ports to highways." In contrast, Florida's Steve Southerland only noted that I-10 and I-75 run through his district.

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