House Committee marking up their transportation bill todayFebruary 2, 2012
By Stephen Lee Davis
We’ll be live blogging some of the highlights of the markup going on today by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Refresh the page throughout the day to stay up to speed. And you can also follow us on Twitter. If you want to watch the live stream of the markup, you can watch that here.
3:31 That may be it for most of the live-blogging for today, unless the amendment on bridge repair comes up soon. We’ll likely be back at the end of the day or tomorrow to wrap things up and summarize. You can follow our tweets from the markup @t4americaand you can see others tweeting and discussing with the hashtag #TranspoMarkup
Also, don’t miss what happened in Ways and Means last night, which is proposing a serious attack on dedicated public transportation funding.
10:44 - Amendment to restore the funding for Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements.
Rep. Petri introduces the amendment restoring transportaiton enhancements. He says, “there might be an impression that these programs are 10% of a state’s highway funding. It’s really not the case. These activities would account for about 2% of highway funds. It gives a lot of bang for the buck. There have been 17,000 enhancement projects completed since 1992. The National Association of Realtors support the amendment because these amenities add value to our neighborhoods. …Ensuring the safety of our children is in the national interest. More than half of all enhancement funds have gone toward bike and pedestrian projects, which provides a balance to our national transportation program. The National Heart Association is here campaigning for this amendment…because it helps us lead healthier lives.”
After Petri’s comments, there was a lot of debate on the amendment. Rep. Mica said, “let me just say that we have grown to a huge number of programs. We have significant mandates. This entire bill has tried to head in a different direction and devolved to the states to be able to do these programs that we’ve spoken of. …While I favor may of the items that have been mentioned, I do not view this in any way detrimental to those states that want to do this. But we believe that it’s time to get away from the mandates and the set aisdes that we do and this is one of them. I will oppose this amendment.
Rep. Rahall signals his strong support for this amendment as a “quality of life amendment” and offers a strong rebuke to the last few years of TE-bashing, adding that “I’m sick and tired of this program being used by idealogues as a whipping boy…”
Rep. Shuster explains what could be summed up as the basic majority opinion on the amendment. “This is fundamental for what we’re trying to do in reform this program. We’re faced with declining balances in the trust fund. We have close to 5,000 bridges that need to be rebuilt [in Pennsylvania.] …Spending money on bike paths is nice, but it’s a community based function. It’s not for the federal government up here in Washington to tell states that they must spend these monies. Also, these dollars going into these are people that use the highways and are paying for them. I rise in strong opposition.”
“This is just mean spirited,” says Rep. DeFazio.”To just say ‘no more regards for bikes, let’s just turn back the clock to pre-1980s.” He asks the committee members to look the kids, the cops and the parents in these communities in the eye and tell them, “I’m sorry, we can’t afford to buy your child a safe way to ride their bicycle to shool and live a healthy lifestyle.”
Rep. Lipinski reminds the committee that walking and cycling are valid forms of transportation. “The more people we have doing that, the less wear and tear, the less congestion on our roads. This is not just throwing something out for recretaion. This is truly transportation. We have to recognize that we’re never going to build enough roads to accomondate everyone. We need to encourage people to be taking other forms of transportation. We need to understand and recognize that this is transportation.
The amendment fails by a close vote, but with bipartisan support, at 29-27.
9:25 Rep. Nick Rahall, the ranking Democrat on the committee, opens with kind remarks for the Chairman, but quickly pivots into a fairly scathing critique of the bill and the process, including the Speaker of the House, whom he says has voted against every transportation bill while in Congress.
Rep. Rahall is clearly bothered by the fact that a 845-page bill was introduced only a few short days before the markup, making it difficult for members to fully read and digest the bill. He asks to see a show of hands of people who have read the full bill. Chairman Mica is overheard saying, “I’ve read most of it,” and Rep. DeFazio is asked how many hands he sees and he says “I can’t count that low.” Rep. Rahall suggests he and the minority are prepared to move to postpone the markup to Wednesday, February 8th to provide more time to analyze the bill.
“Flatlines funding when we need to provide greater investment in our infrastructure…Slashes and burns the federal role in safety oversight. Democrats are prepared to offer many amendments of the shortcomings in this bill.”
Chairman Mica notes that there will be no rolling votes during the day, which means that members will have to be present for votes throughout the day. This likely means that the markup could go on all day and well into the evening, with a few recesses throughout the day for votes on the House floor.
9:07: Chairman Mica opens by thanking and acknowledges the “bipartisan effort that went into this day.” Obviously, it’ll be interesting to see how the committee vote shakes out, because it could be a very partisan vote. He draws a contrast with Rep. Oberstar’s bill, that was well formed in his colleague’s mind before he ever took leadership of the committee, and pointed out how much time the committee spent in hearings on the road to hear what “the American People” want in a transportation bill before drafting this one.
He notes the importance of having a long-term bill, which the House has drafted, and says that “we also pay for that, which is different than in the past…We have to live within our means…It’s important to keep the [Highway] Trust Fund solvent for the forseeable future.” Along these lines, Rep. Mica takes a little shot at the Senate bill, which he says falls short by relying on “short term funding, short-term planning, short-term stability…”
He then ran through what he feels are the highlights of the bill. It consolidates 70 federal programs. “States end up with more net money…We eliminiate mandatory set-asides and allow states to set their own priorities.” We heard over and over again that they need to speed up the process.
“I think the American people after 8 extensions deserve the best from Congress and our Committee.”