House Transportation And Infrastructure Committee

Transportation Nation

LaHood Heaps More Criticism on "Lousy" House Transpo Bill

Monday, February 13, 2012

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (US DOT Photo)

C'mon, Mr. Secretary, now tell us how you really feel.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has already called the House Transportation bill "the most partisan ever" and the "worst bill in decades," heaped more criticism on the GOP-sponsored bill.

"The House has a lousy bill.  It takes us back to the dark ages," LaHood, a former Republican Congressman, said on a conference call with reporters to discuss President Obama's proposed 2013 budget. "It doesn't reflect the transportation values of the country."

LaHood said Republican Congress members have already started to defect.  "I was delighted when I read that Republican members from Illinois said they would not support [House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair John] Mica's bill unless transit funding was put back in... They were stunned at the way this was done."

A number of GOP house members around the country have objected to the bill's provision to no longer support transit from the gas tax, but put it in the general fund, instead.

"When I served on the transportation committee, we passed two transportation bills with more than 400 votes in the House and more than 80 in the Senate."

Mica "has heard from his members, both moderates and conservative. He's got people on all sides saying they're not going to vote for it. Not one Democrat will vote for [it].  Not one.  If you get a handful of conservatives and a handful of moderates, there's no way for it to get to 218."

LaHood's remarks came as he was touting the President's own $476 billion surface transportation bill, part of the 2013 budget.  That proposal contains continued funding for high speed rail ($47 billion), $50 billion in "immediate investments" to "improve America's raods, bridges, transit systems, border crossings, railways, and runways."  And it would continue funding for TIGER grants, which have been heavily criticized by the House GOP.

LaHood said despite the fact that both the House and the Senate are expected to vote this week on their respective -- and far-apart -- transportation bills, "we're all at the starting gate. The House is considering their bill, the Senate is considering their bill, we're putting out our bill. "

As for the house bill "Lookit -- it's just a lousy bill, it hollows out all of our safety plans.  It's a lousy bill."

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Transportation Nation

Florida High-Speed Rail: Talks Ongoing, Gov. Remains Unconvinced

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) With two days left to broker an agreement on high-speed rail in Florida, talks are ongoing -- but Governor Rick Scott remains unconvinced.

The parties -- among them Senator Bill Nelson, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Congressman John Mica, and Congresswoman Corrine Brown -- are keeping it close to the vest.

A spokesperson for Senator Bill Nelson's office would only confirm that talks between the DOT and Florida officials were ongoing -- and that there were no new developments.

Congressman John Mica (R-FL) is in Los Angeles holding hearings on the transportation reauthorization bill. A spokesman didn't return requests for comment.

But Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) who has been toiling with Mica, Nelson and other members of Florida's congressional delegation to salvage the state's high-speed rail program, has been working the phones and will return to Florida tomorrow for the final push, according to her press secretary, David Simon. An official familiar with the US DOT says "discussions are still ongoing and Friday is still the deadline."

Governor Rick Scott's press office hasn't responded to Transportation Nation queries, but a spokesman did tell the St. Petersburg Times (article here) "Nothing in the discussions so far alleviates the governor's concerns that Florida's state taxpayers would still be on the hook."

Scott last week said he was sending back $2.4 billion in federal funding for high speed rail. He said Florida's $280 million contribution was too risky.

Meanwhile, tonight in Orlando there's a pro-high-speed rail rally, organized by the former Orange County commissioner.

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Transportation Nation

Mica: "We'll Get to Finish Line on Transportation Bill"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I had a great night tonight  with Barbara Boxer, she’s going to chair the effort on the Senate side, and we have a whole host of ideas we’ve already agreed on. We can do it. We’re going to drag Obama kicking and screaming to the finish line."

Representative John Mica

TN correspondent Todd Zwillich caught up with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committtee Chair John Mica last night after the State of the Union address, and he and a few other reporters got his reaction to the president's speech and upcoming plans for a transportation reauthorization bill.  You can listen to the congressman here -- or read the transcript below.

Reporter: How do you balance this in your own party, with the needs you know are out there?

John Mica: Well, again, there are good investments and bad investments; they missed the mark last time with stimulus, they only put 7% of $787 billion. 30 days before the election only 39% was spent. So they lost the election by 1) derailing a six-year transportation bill and by 2) coming up with a plan that didn’t allow the money to even be spent to employ people, so now we have a chance to correct that, and we hope we don’t make the same mistake twice. But we’ll work with the president, some of his math as I said doesn’t work on high-speed rail–-we have a hearing at 10:00 in New York City, at Grand Central Station, to sort out some of the differences this week.

Reporter: how do you plan to pay for this transportation bill without the administration getting behind some innovative financing with more than just the word ‘innovative’? It seems like he fleshed out (crosstalk)

JM: Well, first of, I’m gonna take –

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Transportation Nation

West Virginian Is Highest-Ranking Democrat on Transportation Committee

Thursday, January 20, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  The ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is Nick Rahall, a West Virginia, who according to the editor of our sister site, and former WV public radio reporter Anna Sale is a "big supporter of building roads in rural areas to spur economic development, just like Senator Robert Byrd, another southern West Virginian who famously steered federal money home to build roads."  He likes coal, too, as you might suspect.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is headed up by Republican John Mica (you can read a TN interview with him here).

Other dems with "power" are Pete DeFazio, a big "sustainable transportation" supporter, southern Illinois Rep. Jerry Costello, and two urbanites, Jerrold Nadler, from NYC, and DC's Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Here's the release:

Rahall Announces Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Democrats, Subcommittee Ranking Members

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Transportation Nation

Ousted Transpo Leader Oberstar to Speak Today

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) U.S. representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN), who was narrowly defeated yesterday by Republican Chip Cravaack, will speak today at 2pm Eastern time. This will be his first statement since losing the election.

Political newcomer Cravaack defeated Oberstar by about 4,000 votes and a single percentage point--but the margin isn't small enough to trigger a recount. Cravaack accused Oberstar of neglecting his home district and told supporters his victory should serve as a warning. "The voters have spoken, and I hope they are paying attention in Washington," Cravaack said. "Because you have spoken loud and clear, not just from Minnesota, but from across this great nation. Let this serve as a warning to Congress. We don't work for you. You work for us."

Speaking on Minnesota Public Radio this morning, MPR reporter Stephanie Hemphill said that "there will be a lot of people waking up this morning and pinching themselves, including Chip Cravaack and Congressman Oberstar. It's hard to believe that someone who was in Congress since 1975 is not going to be there anymore."

Oberstar chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He was the only member of Minnesota's congressional delegation to fail to win re-election, and his defeat leaves many wondering what this means for transportation projects.

Minnesota Public Radio will carry Oberstar's speech live, and they'll be streaming it live on their website. To listen, go here and click on the "Listen Now" button the right side of the page.

To hear Chip Craavack's victory speech, go here.

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