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Who Are the Important Players for Bicycling in the 113th Congress?

Caron Whitaker is Vice President of Government Relations at the League of American Bicyclists. This post was cross-posted from the League of American Bicyclists blog.

Inauguration is still a few weeks away, but today marks the official start of the 113th Congress. And, while the president secured a second term, the 2012 election resulted in some significant changes on Capitol Hill — changes that could have a big impact on bicyclists.

As we prepare for the National Bike Summit and the next transportation bill, it’s a good opportunity to introduce the key players in transportation policy. One of the most important committees is the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, which will see new leadership and an influx of new members.

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Incoming Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster

Taking over as the new Chairman, Representative Bill Shuster (PA-9, pictured at left) will assume the gavel when the session begins. A Republican from Hollidaysburg, Penn., Shuster is a 10-year veteran in Congress with a long-running focus on transportation. Over the past two years, Shuster has played a critical role on the committee. He started the 112th Congress by joining then Chairman John Mica (FL-7) on his transportation listening tour, and played an active role educating freshman Republican T&I members through the bill process. Although he did speak out and vote against the Petri Amendment (to reinstate dedicated funding for biking and walking) in committee debate in January 2012, Shuster has a reputation for being a practical dealmaker.

Since the announcement of his Chairmanship, Shuster has talked about the need for a bi-partisan effort on the next transportation bill and has already met with Ranking Member Nick Rahall (WV-3) to discuss committee business. Shuster and Rahall have had a strong working relationship in the past as Chair and Ranking member of a T&I sub-committee — which should bode well for the upcoming Congress. Shuster has also acknowledged the need to address the financing question and has suggested that nothing — including a raise to the gas tax — should be off the table.

In addition to Shuster taking on a new role, 20 new members will be joining the committee. In the last Congress, T&I had 59 members with 33 Republicans and 26 Democrats. Starting today, the committee goes up to 60 members, with the Democrats gaining a 27th seat. In addition, both sides saw significant changes to their rosters from last year. The Republicans losy 10 members to retirements, election losses or committee changes, and Democrats lost 9 members. As a result, a full 1/3 of the committee will change over, providing an opportunity to reset the dialogue on biking and walking. How those new members think about transportation can change the dynamics and priorities of the committee — and we hope you can help make the case for bicycling by attending the Summit!

For Republicans, many of those leaving T&I are departing after only two years on the committee. Almost all of the veteran Republican members are staying on the committee, including two important bicycling advocates: Representatives Tom Petri (WI-6) and Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2). The notable exception is the retirement of Tim Johnson (IL-15) who was a sponsor of the Petri Amendment and strong supporter of biking and walking in general. The new Republican members include one second-term member, Representative Daniel Webster (FL-8). The other nine are freshman, including: Representatives Steve Daines (MT-AL), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Thomas Massie (KY- 4), Mark Meadows (NC-11), Markwayne Mullin (OK- 2), Scott Perry (PA-4), Trey Radel (FL- 19), Tom Rice (SC-7),and Roger Williams (TX-25).

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Congressman Tom Petri speaking at the 2012 National Bike Summit

On the Democratic side, it’s a bit different. None of the nine who left T&I were freshman in 2010 and several of those joining the committee are also veterans of Congress, who either lost their congressional or committee seat when the Republicans took control in 2010, and are now returning. These include: John Garamendi (CA-3), André Carson (IN-7), Janice Hahn (CA-44), Rick Nolan (MN-8), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), and Dina Titus (NV-1). The remaining seats will be filled by freshman this year: Sean Patrick Maloney (NY- 18), Elizabeth Esty (CT-5), Lois Frankel (FL- 26), and Cheri Bustos (IL-17).

As we learn more about these members and the new dynamics of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, we would also like to ask your help:

  • For those who live in the district of any of these new T&I member: Let us know what you know! Does your new member of Congress commute by bike? If he or she has been in public office before, what were his/her transportation priorities? Did transportation come up during the campaign? The more we know the better prepared we can be here in Washington.
  • Come to the National Bike Summit this March: Whether your Representative is on T&I or not, creating a buzz around biking on Capitol Hill will help set the tone for next year.
  • Visit your member’s district office, or invite your member for a bike ride or a tour of local bike facilities — and let us know what you learn!

I look forward to hearing from you!

There are a few changes in the Senate transportation Committees, and on the Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate that are still being worked out. Look for future blogs to learn more.

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