What Can We Expect From Bill Shuster on Transportation?

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Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog looks at Bill Shuster’s record for clues about his priorities on the House Transportation Committee. Hopefully Shuster wants to take on the FRA regulations requiring way too heavy trains in the Northeast Corridor:

One point Shuster had to sell to the extreme right wing of the party is that transportation and infrastructure are, indeed, a “core function” of government. While some conservatives think the federal government should get out of the transportation business, Shuster tells them that even the godfather of capitalism, Adam Smith, said transportation was one of the three essential functions of government, along with security and justice. Shuster says the government has been carrying out the task of expanding and improving the transportation network for 200 years — often under Republican presidents.

Democrats are “cautiously optimistic” that a Shuster-led committee could be less polarized than it was under Mica. The T&I committee was until recently viewed as a model of bipartisanship, but became sharply divided after Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) left in 2010 and Republicans took control of the House. Democrats complained through the entire session that they were shut out of everything, never consulted or even allowed to see draft legislation before it was made public. While House Democrats served on the conference committee that eventually hammered out a compromise bill, the real negotiations were always between Senate Dems and House Republicans.

Could the committee turn around under a Shuster chairmanship? His colleagues call Shuster “approachable,” “likeable” and “collegial,” with a leadership style that’s markedly different from his father’s, which was described as “ruthless.”

“For those of us that are somewhat new, he’s very approachable and he is extremely pragmatic when it comes to understanding the issues,” Representative Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican elected in 2008, told Bloomberg News. Shuster himself said his leadership style was somewhere on the middle of the spectrum between “hammer” and “hugs.”

Advocates are also hopeful that Shuster’s abiding interest in rail and “outside-the-box” thinking could lead to a positive session. “He seems like a thoughtful person who has genuine interest and expertise in the issues,” said David Goldberg of Transportation for America.

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