Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Bill Shuster

Shuster Pre-empts Devolutionists With Defense of Federal Role

New House Transportation Committee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) clearly knows he's got some devolutionist conservatives in his caucus (and on his committee). While many Republicans would like to see the federal government get out of the business of infrastructure and just let the states raise and spend their own money, Shuster has always been clear that he is in favor of a strong federal role.

Before the session gets underway, Transportation Committee Chair Bill Shuster wants to make one thing clear. Photo: ##http://www.thepoliticalguide.com/Profiles/House/Pennsylvania/Bill_Shuster/##PoliGu##

He likes to remind conservatives that Adam Smith, the godfather of free-enterprise capitalism himself, argued that there were three essential functions of government–security, justice and transportation. He notes that many Republican presidents have overseen massive infrastructure expansion, and that the work continues.

So Shuster is devoting the first committee hearing of the session to clarifying his view that the work of the committee is not just to channel all decisions and funds down to the states. Before anything else -- before anyone on the committee has a chance to undermine the very purpose of the committee -- Shuster hopes to dispense with that entire line of argument.

So next Wednesday's hearing, entitled "The Federal Role in America’s Infrastructure," will give a platform to three of the most vocal advocates of increased federal infrastructure spending: U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, Building America’s Future Co-Chair and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and Laborers’ International Union of North America President Terry O’Sullivan all have been invited to testify.

They'll have a lot of minds to change. The lobby for devolution to the states is growing, and not just among conservatives. Rohit Aggarwala -- former director of long-term panning and sustainability for New York City and now top advisor to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group -- made the same case a few weeks ago in a Bloomberg News op-ed.

"Every bipartisan commission that has studied the situation has advocated raising the [gas] tax, but a polarized Congress has been unable to do it," Aggarwala wrote. "A strong, smart, well-funded federal program would be great. But if Congress can't pass one now, it should just get itself out of the way, by eliminating the federal gas tax entirely and cutting Washington's role in surface transportation. It would streamline government. And it would probably lead to more investment in infrastructure and greener transportation policies."

Shuster and Aggarwala have flipped traditional roles, with the green sustainability leader now calling for Washington to get out of the transportation biz and the conservative rural Republican defending the importance of federal involvement.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Tuesday’s Headlines Need a Camera to My Eye

Reminding which lies have I been hiding — like that I was driving illegally in the bus lane or bike lane.

May 28, 2024

OPINION: Reject New Jersey’s Misguided War on E-Bikes

A new bill in New Jersey would make owning an e-bike as costly as buying a new vehicle every single year.

May 28, 2024

Rep. Earl Blumenauer Thinks Biking Is About To Have Its Big Moment

..and he hopes to catalyze that revolution as he leaves the halls of Congress.

May 28, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Depend on How You Phrase It

How to reduce emissions through taxes is pretty clear, but to sell it to the public, you can't make lower-income people pay.

May 24, 2024

Register Your Bike. It’s Easy, It’s Free, and It Helps Everyone

Bike Index, a free national bike registry, just launched an iOS app to make it even easier.

May 23, 2024
See all posts