the vote: What it means for transportation
By Chris Zeilinger
Assistant Director, Governmental Affairs and Training
Community Transportation Association of America
Community transportation transcends partisan politics.
Our issues, the mobility and opportunity for all Americans,
regardless of their age, income, ability or disability, are neither
Republican nor Democrat in nature. As a result of (last) week's national
elections, President Bush will remain in office another four years,
John Kerry will remain a senator from Massachusetts, and the Republican
Party will retain its slight majorities in the U.S. Senate and House
Our issues of transportation and mobility are wrapped up in the affairs
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21)
is overdue for its renewal and probably won't again be considered until
the new Congress reconvenes in 2005. Also overdue are the renewal of
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and related programs
of the 1996 "welfare reform" legislation, and renewal of the
Workforce Investment Act (WIA) family of job training and employment
Therefore, the most salient features of the election are not the partisan
splits in the House and Senate, or the continuing service of George
W. Bush in the presidency.
One incumbent, Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and seven sitting
members of the House - five Democrats and two Republicans - were defeated.
Between this handful of ousted incumbents, eight Senate retirements,
and 32 House retirements and other anticipated departures before the
election, there will be nine new members of the Senate and 39 new members
of the House when the 109th Congress convenes toward the end of January
These relatively low rates of Congressional turnover may ease the way
toward advancing community transportation legislation in the new Congress,
inasmuch as returning legislators are likely to be more aware and attuned
to the mobility issues of TEA-21, TANF and WIA.
What is hard to anticipate is the extent to which budgetary
issues will continue to stall House-Senate negotiations on TEA-21 reauthorization,
and the extent to which partisan differences on a handful of social
policy issues will continue to limit the full Senate's ability to send
TANF and WIA reauthorizations to House-Senate conference committees.
The central forum for Congressional deliberations on community transportation
issues of concern is the structure of committees in the House and Senate.
It is too early to even begin guessing the composition or leadership
of these committees, but it is fair to say that the low rates of Congressional
turnover may keep quite a few House and Senate committees with many
of the same leaders and members as they now enjoy.
In the Senate, the retirement of Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.),
combined with Senate Republicans' term limits for certain committee
chairmen, will lead to something of a revolving door among chairmanships,
including the 13 so-called "cardinals" that chair the subcommittees
of the Senate Appropriations Committee (Campbell chaired the Legislative
Branch appropriations subcommittee).
The most interesting changes in the Senate are likely
to occur on the Senate Finance Committee, where a full 20 percent of
its members are departing. This committee is responsible for matters
of taxes, Medicare and Social Security, as well as TANF, all of which
should loom large in the 109th Congress.
Retirements and defeats in the House will not themselves force a lot
of change in committee memberships. However, it should be noted that
the three committees with the greatest numbers of departing members
are the House Ways and Means Committee (responsible for taxes, TANF,
Medicare and Social Security, and losing 15 percent of its members),
the House Education and Workforce Committee (responsible for WIA and
other human services programs, and losing 12 percent of its members)
and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (responsible
for TEA-21, and losing 12 percent of its members). Despite these changes,
the only shifts in leadership in House committees of importance are
the defeat of Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.), a senior member of the Ways
and Means Committee, and the retirement of Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.),
a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
What lies ahead is to remind members of Congress, new and returning,
about the vitality of community transportation, and the urgency with
which we need to see a renewal of TEA-21, as quickly and expansively
as can be accomplished. Four of the incoming Senators, and all 39 newly
elected House members, were not in office for this year's debates and
deliberations on TEA-21, so it is especially important to see that they
understand the benefits achieved through public and community transportation
and the untapped potential that could be realized through reauthorization.
In the coming weeks, we will be assembling informational materials on
line at our web site http://www.ctaa.org/
, and its communications center, http://capwiz.com/ctaa/home/.