Several new faces are set to take over key Congressional committees in 2019 that affect the transportation industry, especially in the House Representatives, which reverted back to Democratic Party control following the midterm elections on Nov. 6 last year.
[Above photo via Pixby]
The Democrats officially selected Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., as chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee for the 116th Congress on Jan. 4. A longtime member of the T&I committee, who served as its ranking member in the 114th and 115th Congresses, Rep. DeFazio noted in a statement that he plans to be a “tireless advocate” for infrastructure investment that results in job creation, increased economic growth, and decreased emissions.
“I will fight for common sense, comprehensive solutions to address the major issues facing our aging, 20th century infrastructure and champion a smarter, greener infrastructure that helps to reduce carbon pollution, and is more resilient and better equipped to handle the impacts of climate change,” he said.
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., will serve as the ranking member of the T&I Committee for the 116th Congress. He also fleshed out minority staffing for the committee on Jan. 8 to include: Paul Sass as the Republican staff director; Jack Ruddy as deputy staff director; Fred Miller as general counsel; and Justin Harclerode as communications director.
Other key House committee leaders now in place for the 116th Congress include:
- Richard Neal, D-Mass., is chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, which has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, health care, and Social Security. [Interesting historical footnote: Eight Presidents and eight Vice Presidents have served on Ways and Means, as have 21 Speakers of the House of Representatives, plus four Justices of the Supreme Court.]
- Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chairs the Committee on Energy and Commerce – the oldest continuous standing committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, originally established in 1795 to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. It maintains the broadest jurisdiction of any authorizing committee in Congress, overseeing environmental issues, renewable energy, cybersecurity and data security, interstate and foreign commerce, plus motor vehicle safety. It also provides oversight for the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
- Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., is the chairwoman of the Committee on Appropriations. Currently serving her 16th term in Congress, she is the first woman to serve as the chair of Appropriations and the first woman to lead either party on the Committee. Comprised of 30 Republicans and 22 Democrats and organized into 12 subcommittees, the Appropriations Committee is responsible for writing the laws that fund the federal government.
- John Yarmuth, D-Ky., is the chairman of the House Budget Committee and its chief responsibility is to draft an annual concurrent resolution that provides a Congressional framework for spending and revenue levels, the federal surplus or deficit, and public debt. Those issues can directly impact transportation and will come to the fore next year when a two-year funding agreement approved on Feb. 9 last year expires in 2020.
Though the Republican Party maintained control of the Senate following the midterm elections back in November, key leadership changes are resulting in new committee chairmen in some cases.
After the Republicans elevated Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to be Majority Whip, they elected Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on Jan. 9 to replace Sen. Thune as chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., will now serve as the Commerce Committee’s Ranking Member, replacing former Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who lost his bid for re-election.
Sen. Wicker also reorganized the commerce committee on Jan. 11 to a degree, naming new chairmen and shrinking the total number of subcommittees from seven to six in the process:
- Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, will chair the Subcommittee on Security. He previously chaired the Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather in the 115th Congress; that subcommittee will now be headed up by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., for the 116th Congress.
- Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will chair the new Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, which combines two previously separate subcommittees as Cruz had chaired the Space subcommittee during the 115th Congress, while Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chaired the Aviation subcommittee.
- Deb Fischer, R-Neb., is going to lead the Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety. She previously chaired what was called the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security in the 115th Congress.
- After stepping down as the Commerce Committee’s Chairman, Sen. Thune will now head up the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet – the subcommittee previously chaired by Sen. Wicker.
- Jerry Moran, R-Kan., will chair the Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., was unanimously re-elected chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works on Jan. 9, with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., continuing to serve as the committee’s Ranking Member for the 116th Congress.