House Vows Action in 2008

 - February 28, 2008, 5:21 AM

The chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the chairs of the six T&I subcommittees outlined what they term an “ambitious” program of hearings and legislation for the second half of the 110th Congress.

Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the full T&I committee, said in a press briefing that he plans to build upon the committee’s “successes” in 2007, when the committee and its six subcommittees held 116 meetings, compared with 123 in the entire 109th Congress in 2005-2006, when the Republicans were in control of Congress.

But the committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. John Mica of Florida, countered, “The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s achievements were few and far between in 2007.”

During the first session of the 110th Congress, he said, the committee held more than 100 meetings, involving some 340 hours and the testimony of more than 700 witnesses. Eleven committee bills from the first session that have become law designate the name of a federal building, room or road, and an additional bill authorizes the construction of an arterial road in Missouri.

Mica said the three major committee bills that became public law were approved with strong bipartisan support: the “Water Resources Development Act of 2007;” the “Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act,” which rescinded the mandatory age 60 retirement rule for airline pilots; and a bill to authorize emergency funding for the reconstruction of the I-35W bridge in Minnesota.

“A host of issues remain for 2008,” he added. “Stalled reauthorizations of the [FAA], the Coast Guard and a number of the nation’s economic development programs remain as unfinished business. An important bill providing corrections to the federal highways and transit programs also remains. This nation continues to lack a strategic transportation plan that draws on the strengths of all modes of transportation in unison, including a true high-speed rail system.”

Oberstar pointed out that much of the committee’s work this year will be concluding the unfinished business of last year, particularly winning Senate approval of 24 T&I bills that have passed the House but are still awaiting action in the other body. Among them are bills reauthorizing the FAA and Coast Guard, and the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

Among the principal goals for this year, he said, are FAA reauthorization; NTSB reauthorization; hearings on runway safety, airline mergers (if any are announced) and congestion and delays (especially at the New York airports); monitoring issues concerning air traffic controller staffing; and monitoring U.S.-EU actions on air emissions, and plans by the European Commission to extend its emissions trading scheme to non-EU airlines.

“I hope this committee can regain its traction and begin to move forward after spinning its wheels in 2007,” Mica said.