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Mitt Romney

Party Affiliation: Republican

Web site: http://www.mittromney.com/

Slogan: Believe in America

Transportation Nation

Analysis: Picking Ryan Means Picking Fight on Transportation

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

 

Congressman Paul Ryan speaks at a Romney Rally in Manassas, Virginia, Sunday. (Photo by Flickr user monkeyz_uncle)

“Sharp” is a word you may have heard a lot these past few days. It’s a favorite descriptor for Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Congressman who became Mitt Romney’s running mate as of Saturday morning. Sharp, say friends and foes alike, are Ryan’s appearance, his mind, his criticisms of President Barack Obama, the spending reductions he favors—and now, somewhat suddenly, the contrast between the policies embodied by the presumptive Republican challengers and those of the incumbent Democrats. It is a perceived sharpness that itself stands in contrast, of course, to Mitt Romney’s pre-Ryan candidacy, which many commentators found too muddled and many conservatives found too moderate.

Take transportation, for instance. Romney, as this blog observed, spoke and behaved as a metro-friendly moderate when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s transportation budgets were modally balanced, with an emphasis on fixing what already existed, and he worked hard to create a new state agency to encourage smart growth development and sustainability. A candidate who still believed in those principles might not have many sharp things to say about transportation in a debate with President Barack Obama.

The Obama Administration subscribes to the belief, by no means exclusive to liberals, that infrastructure spending is crucial to creating jobs and keeping America competitive. Judging from Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint, the newly tapped V.P. candidate takes issue not with just the dollar figures required to test Obama's idea, but the philosophy itself.

As high-speed rail advocates and transit-friendly bloggers are already aware, Ryan will bring plenty of sharp contrast to the presidential campaign. Yonah Freemark of Transport Politic put it neatly:

“Mr. Ryan voted against every piece of transportation legislation proposed by Democrats when they controlled the lower chamber between 2007 and early 2010, with the exception of a bill subsidizing the automobile industry to the tune of $14 billion in loans in December 2008. This record included a vote against moving $8 billion into the highway trust fund in July 2008 (the overall vote was 387 to 37), a bill that was necessary to keep transportation funding at existing levels of investment. Meanwhile, he voted for a failed amendment that would have significantly cut back funding for Amtrak and voted against a widely popular bill that would expand grants for public transportation projects. He did vote in favor of the most recent transportation bill extension.”

These votes of Ryan's weren’t a matter of toeing the party line, either. Republican House Transportation Chairman John Mica, for instance, took the other side on every one of these votes except the failed amendment cutting funding for Amtrak.

But no budget hawk is perfect. Ryan did show a certain weakness for transportation dollars back when George W. Bush was President. In July of 2005, he joined the 412-8 majority in voting for the infamously pork-laden, “bridge-to-nowhere”-building reauthorization bill SAFETEA-LU. And then he sent out a press release listing all of the earmarks he had won for his district, including $7.2 million for the widening of I-94 between the Illinois state line and Milwaukee, $3.2 million for a bypass around Burlington, and $2.4 million for work on I-43 in Rock County. Small authorizations were also secured for preliminary engineering work on the Kenosha streetcar expansion project and Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail. Ryan’s press release boasted that the state of Wisconsin was still a donee state, getting back $1.06 for every federal tax dollar, up from $1.02 the previous authorization. But “there’s no gas tax increase, and it draws on the Highway Trust Fund – not general revenues – for transportation spending, and it’s fair for Wisconsin gas tax payers.”

Five years later, as we know, it became unfashionable, gauche even, to be seen indulging in earmarks and other federal largess. In November 2010, that Tea Party autumn, Republican Scott Walker won the governorship of Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin after a campaign that made a major issue of the Milwaukee-to-Madison high speed rail “boondoggle.” In a television commercial, Walker said he’d rather use the $810 million to fix Wisconsin’s roads and bridges. But the money wasn’t fungible. As Walker and Florida Governor Rick Scott soon had to admit, turning down the money only meant re-gifting it to high speed rail projects in other, bluer, more grateful states.

Paul Ryan tried to change that. Just a few days after Walker’s election, he and two fellow Wisconsin Republicans co-sponsored legislation in the House to order returned high-speed rail money deposited into the general fund for the purposes of deficit reduction. The bill would have changed the political dynamic of federal high-speed rail funding had it passed, placing new pressure on any governor who accepted those grants. For whatever reason, the bill never left committee.

When Ryan became Chairman of the House Budget Committee, in 2011, he put forth a 2012 budget that, reflecting Ryan’s commitment not to raise the gas tax or draw from the general fund, reduced transportation spending from its 2011 level of $95 billion gradually down to $66 billion in 2015. That was at a time when the Obama Administration was proposing a six-year infrastructure outlay of $476 billion “to modernize the country’s transportation infrastructure, and pave the way for long-term economic growth.”

But there’s the rub. Chairman Ryan refutes that premise. In his budget, transportation spending is not economic investment. To quote the 2013 budget:

In the first two years of the Obama administration, funding for the Department of Transportation grew by 24 percent–and that doesn’t count the stimulus spike, which nearly doubled transportation spending in one year. The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending. Further, however worthy some highway projects might be, their capacity as job creators has been vastly oversold, as demonstrated by the extravagant but unfulfilled promises that accompanied the 2009 stimulus bill, particularly with regard to high-speed rail.

The document goes on to say that the country’s fiscal challenges make “long-term subsidization infeasible,” and that “high-speed rail and other new intercity rail projects should be pursued only if they can be established as self-supporting commercial services.” (It’s unclear whether Ryan believes that new highways should also be built as self-supporting commercial services. But he should give Rick Perry a call before saying so publicly.)

With Ryan now on the Republican ticket, one can see more clearly the (sharper) contours of the general election debate, and infrastructure spending might just have a starring role. It’s there in the debate over the federal budget, and the federal funding role. It’s at the crux of the hullabaloo over “You didn’t build that” (a government theory Elizabeth Warren articulated better). And it will be there when Paul Ryan debates Amtrak Joe.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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It's A Free Country ®

Ryan Lizza on What Makes Paul Ryan Tick

Monday, August 13, 2012

The death of Paul Ryan's father had a profound impact on the Congressman's politics, which emphasize individualism over collectivism.

Comments [3]

It's A Free Country ®

Opinion: Ryan Veep Pick Means 2012 Will be a Real Choice

Monday, August 13, 2012

In picking Ryan, Romney cemented his conservative base, he showed he was capable of surprising us, and he signaled that the nature of government should be a subject of debate this election.

Comments [4]

The Takeaway

Wisconsinites React to the Romney-Ryan Ticket

Monday, August 13, 2012

To most of America, Mitt Romney’s new running mate is still a relatively fresh face, but some voters have known Rep. Paul Ryan for over a decade. What do they have to say about him? 

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The Takeaway

Looking at the Romney-Ryan Ticket

Monday, August 13, 2012

What are the political consequence of having Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket? How will it make a difference in November?

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Open Prep: 15 Things to Read, See and Hear About Paul Ryan

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mitt Romney has chosen Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan for his vice presidential pick. Reihan Salam of the National Review will be discussing the pick on Monday's Brian Lehrer show. In the meantime, here's some background reading on Ryan.

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It's A Free Country ®

What Ryan's Prescription on Healthcare Could Mean for New Yorkers

Monday, August 13, 2012

In choosing Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney is putting the fate of much of the American healthcare system at the top of this year's political agenda. In the New York metro area, where healthcare is a dominant industry and an expensive proposition for consumers and taxpayers, whichever policy prevails will be uniquely felt.

Comments [8]

It's A Free Blog

Meme Patrol: The GOP's Herman and Eddie Munster Ticket

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ryan, with his porcelain-pale skin, deep-set eyes and a pronounced widow's peak, has long been snarked as an Eddie Munster lookalike. Paired with Romney's long-faced, patrician features, the instant invention of a new meme — Herman and Eddie Munster in 2012! - was inevitable.

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WNYC News

Romney Names Paul Ryan as Vice Presidential Running Mate

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney introduced Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice presidential running mate on Saturday, turning to the architect of a deeply conservative and intensely controversial long-term budget plan to remake Medicare and cut trillions in federal spending.

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Transportation Nation

Sandy Adams Takes on "Rock of Gibraltar" Mica in Battle for US House Seat

Friday, August 10, 2012

John Mica and supporters  (photo by Matthew Peddie)

The chair of the House Transportation Committee finds himself in a scrappy fight for re-election, but he's standing his ground and turning to mobility metaphors to express his confidence: "I think I have some life left on the odometer," he said, touting the benefits of his seniority in the house. Meanwhile, his opponent, Sandy Adams, is pointedly using his Washington experience against him.

Mica's U.S. Congressional District 7 used to stretch from his home in Winter Park, metro Orlando to Ponte Vedra, a seaside town 130 miles north, not far from Jacksonville.  Redistricting shifted the boundaries closer to Orlando, and District 7 now centers on Seminole County, just north of Orlando's exurbs.  Neighboring District 24 -- currently represented by Sandy Adams -- moved South, leaving Adams to scrap with Mica in the Republican primary.

As the influential chair of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, Mica has been in Congress nearly 20 years, long enough for people to know who he is. Under siege from his opponent Sandy Adams, he’s flying his conservative colors and highlighting his record as a whistle blower on wasteful spending.

“You get to election year, and people want to know what you’ve done, and what you stand for, and I think I’ve got a very strong record of cutting waste, government bureaucracy and also of providing leadership,” says Mica.

But Adams says he's exactly the kind of insider politician voters don't want.

Her campaign is running an ad that labels Mica "Obama's best cheerleader", citing his support for SunRail, Central Florida's 62 mile long commuter rail line, which the ad brands a "boondoggle".

Adams also criticized Mica over a highway tolling provision in the recently passed highway funding  bill.

"Lexus lanes" are a talking point in the District 7 primary (photo by Matthew Peddie)

"It was his bill, he put the tolls on I-4 after telling people he would not," says Adams. "That’s a career politician.

"That's total political malarkey," says Mica. He says the bill preserves free lanes and stipulates if new toll lanes are built, “then you have to use the money for the construction or to reduce indebtedness, which would reduce or eliminate the tolls."

And Mica says he's no cheerleader for the Obama administration.

"It's totally absurd, taken out of context," says Mica. "I am the best cheerleader in Congress for transportation and getting people working."

"I was able to defeat Harry Reid and get a transportation bill done that the Democrats couldn't do, an FAA bill that cut Harry Reid's $3,720 airline ticket subsidies,  so I'm not the best friend of either Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama."

After nearly a decade in Tallahassee as a Florida state representative, Adams is no political newcomer, but she’s staking her claim as a cost cutting outsider.

“I am not a career politician," says  Adams. " I am, and remain, a citizen legislator.”

She says the choice is clear for voters on August 14th in the Republican primary. "They have a choice between a 20-year career Washington politician, or someone that they sent less than two years ago to fix the mess he helped create."

"I am not a career politician" says Sandy Adams

Adams defeated a Democrat in 2010, but this time she’s up against a formidable Republican. "I'm sort of the rock of Gibraltar," says Mica, who says District 7 needs a representative with his staying power and leadership.

And in the highly competitive 435 member U.S. Congress, Mica says his seniority is a good thing. "It will easily be another decade-and-a-half before another full committee chair comes from Central Florida, just because of seniority."

Mica's clout has allowed him to out-raise his opponent nearly two to one. At the end of July, his campaign had nearly a million dollars cash in hand while Adams had half that.

After a Rotary lunch meeting in Orlando Thursday where both Mica and Adams spoke, Mica was quick to quash any suggestion he'd paid for a high profile endorsement from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. "Oh absolutely not. You don't know what a stingy bastard I am. I wouldn't pay anybody for an endorsement."

Meanwhile Adams' campaign has picked up steam in recent days, with an online fundraising site raking in nearly $30,000 in just over 24 hours.

"We're doing just fine," says Adams.

There's also a Democratic primary in District 7, with new-deal Democrat Nicholas Ruiz up against blue-dog Jason Kendall for a chance to take on the winner of the Mica-Adams contest.

Jason Kendall says if he makes it through his primary, there are enough moderates to give him votes in November.

"Sandy’s something of an extremist," says Kendall. " Getting endorsed by Allan West or Sarah Palin might work in some places but I know a lot of people were really turned off by that endorsement.”

Both Republican candidates have a strong base of supporters, but there are some who still haven't made up their minds, like Steve Grier, who was at a recent Mitt Romney campaign event in Orlando. Grier said he wants to learn more about Adams and Mica.

"I like a lot of things about John Mica," he said. "I know that he was for SunRail, which I’m not real crazy about that aspect. But that remains to be seen. Honestly, I’ve had my eyes more on the presidential aspect of the race.”

 

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The Takeaway

Follow Friday: Shooting at Sikh Temple, Romney's VP Pick, and the London Olympics

Friday, August 10, 2012

Every Friday, a panel of experts discuss and reflect on the week's top stories. This week, Farai Chideya reflects on the week in politics; documentary filmmaker Valarie Kaur follows the aftermath of the Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; and BBC Correspondent Rob Broomby wraps up the second week of the Olympics.

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The Takeaway

Conservatives Push for a Romney-Ryan Ticket

Friday, August 10, 2012

Election Day is less than 100 days away, and the pressure is on Mitt Romney to announce a running mate. Many conservatives think Rep. Paul Ryan fits the bill.

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On The Media

Twitter and Political Humor

Friday, August 10, 2012

Comedian Rob Delaney's tweets about Mitt Romney are so popular that, at times, they get re-tweeted more than Romney's own tweets. Brooke speaks with Delaney about those tweets and the rise of Twitter in the world of political humor.

 

White Rabbits - Back For More

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: What to Watch for in Romney's VEEP Pick

Thursday, August 09, 2012

An “outside the box” choice won't help Romney all that much, but his use of social media to unveil a pick already has.

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It's A Free Country ®

Explainer: Did Obama 'Gut' Welfare Reform?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

It’s totally bogus to charge President Obama with “gutting” welfare work requirements. Here's why.

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The Takeaway

Friday Follow: Olympics, Romney's Trip Abroad, and New Job Numbers

Friday, August 03, 2012

This week's Follow Friday includes a look back at the first week of the 2012 London Olympics, the responses to Romney's recent trip to Israel, the financial firm trading glitch, and the July job numbers. 

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It's A Free Country ®

Explainer: Will Mitt Romney Raise Taxes on the Poor? What About Obama?

Friday, August 03, 2012

A new study finds that Mitt Romney’s partially detailed tax plan would necessarily increase the tax burden on low- and middle-income Americans while lowering tax rates for the wealthiest.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: All Politicians Should Show us Their Finances

Thursday, August 02, 2012

It's no wonder Romney's likeability numbers are staying stubbornly low, and no wonder that Republicans have had so much success using Reid and Pelosi as punching bags.

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It's A Free Country ®

Anna in the Swing States: Fighting for Ohio's Narrowest Margins

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To win this state again in 2012, the Obama campaign must hold on to the advantages it gained outside the state’s traditional Democratic strongholds.

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It's A Free Country ®

Gall Around the World: What Mitt Romney Said on His Overseas Adventure

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

As foreign policy tours go, Mitt Romney’s should have been the equivalent of jumping into a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese. It hasn't been nearly as easy or fun for the Republican candidate.

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