Expect More Pork as Shuster Gets the Transport Gavel

Posted: Dec 23, 2012 12:01 AM

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) is the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. His father, Bud, chaired the committee from 1995 to 2001 and would have been a first-ballot inductee into the Porker Hall of Fame if one existed. Having ridden his dad’s coattails into office, the big government apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

The following are some notable excerpts from a Politico article on the new chairman:

Shuster says he’s up to the tough task and is already separating himself from [John] Mica (R-Fla.), whose hard-line stance on not raising the federal gas tax contrasts with Shuster’s openness. Shuster wants to explore — but not necessarily enact — a bevy of funding opportunities, including the gas tax, more tolling, a miles-traveled fee for vehicles and tying energy production to infrastructure.

In other words, Shuster is looking for more money to play with. No wonder his Democratic counterpart in the Senate is enthusiastic:

Still, Shuster’s generally been a hit with Democrats. [Sen. Barbara] Boxer, in charge of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee that handles the most significant parts of the upper chamber’s transportation legislation, had nothing but praise for the new chairman. Boxer said they have a “very nice working relationship” and have already talked about sitting down to lay groundwork for the next [transportation] bill, which both lawmakers hope will be longer than the 27-month law signed by Obama this summer.

There has been chatter in recent years about eliminating the federal gas tax and allowing the states to reassume responsibility for transportation policy. (For more on that topic, see this Cato essay on federal highway funding.) With Shuster in charge, consider any momentum in that direction dead given that he “strongly opposes” it according to Politico.

While Shuster’s elevation to chairman is disappointing from a limited government standpoint, his rise was probably inevitable. He bid his time, carried the House Republican leadership’s water, and now it’s time to collect:

Shuster is also more tapped into House leadership than Mica, serving on the whip team, and one well-connected transportation lobbyist said that could deliver more autonomy. “I think that he is motivated by using his position in the majority and with the blessing of leadership to really get something done,” the lobbyist said. [Democratic Rep. Nick] Rahall told POLITICO his relationships with Shuster and his dad are “excellent” and that he hopes Shuster’s closeness with top GOP brass will give him the green light to run the committee his own way. “By his own admission [Mica] didn’t run the show. And I’m looking forward to Mr. Shuster running the show,” Rahall said. “It’s my hope that he will have more autonomy. I recall his father bucking the leadership on their side, i.e., Mr. [former House Speaker Newt] Gingrich, from the get-go. And winning.”

Two weeks ago the House GOP leadership purged four Republicans for putting limited government principle over party on too many votes. In the aftermath, a GOP source told The Hill that Boehner told Republican that the purge wasn’t ideological and pointed to “some of the people the Steering Committee put in charge of committees.”

Giving Bill Shuster a gavel does not support the Speaker’s claim.