Republicans’ newly won majority in the House will result in new committee leaders in the chamber.
Construction industry officials say that under those new chairmen, House panels will be focused on curbing spending and holding oversight hearings on the Obama administration’s implementation of federal laws and programs like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Although the Republican Steering Committee has not yet announced its roster of committee chairman, several current ranking members are expected to take the helm of their panels.
For example, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), is expected to assume the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. Lewis previously chaired that committee from 2005 to 2006, the last time Republicans were in the majority in the House.
Geoff Burr, vice president of government affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors, says he expects that Appropriations under Lewis to fall in line with the goal of the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-Ohio) to cut spending.
“I know there’s been some talk about cutting government spending to 2008 levels,” Burr says. “I don’t know it that’s politically realistic, but I think it’s something that they are going to attempt to do.”
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is the likely candidate for the top Ways and Means Committee post.
“The Ways and Means Committee will be very interesting to watch,” says Burr. “The tax arena seems to be the one place where something probably gets done in 2011,” he says.
Andrew Goldberg, senior director of federal relations for the American Institute of Architects, says that a proposal to increase taxes on S-Corporations probably is dead under the new leadership. “I don’t see that happening at Ways and Means next year,” he says.
Political observers will be watching the Energy and Commerce Committee. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the current ranking member on that panel, isn’t expected to become chairman, because of a requirement limiting the time members can serve as committee leaders.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is next in line to take the helm, but some conservative Republicans have criticized him for being too moderate. “He’s really going to have to show is conservative bonafides,” Goldberg says. To do that, Upton has already said that he’ll take a leadership role in repealing health care law enacted last year, and “holding the Dept. of Energy’s feet to the fire on [the agency’s] spending,” Goldberg says.
But Steve Hall, vice president of government affairs for the American Council for Engineering Companies, notes that Upton “has been on that committee for several years; he’s built some good relationships with the Republican Conference. He knows the issues. I think he’s a strong candidate for the job.”
A major focus will be Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who is expected to be named to chair the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That panel’s responsibilities encompass highways, transit and other key public-works construction programs.
Mica outlined priorities he would pursue if named to lead the committee in a Nov. 3 statement. Those include pass a long-term federal highways and transit reauthorization, a “long-overdue” Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, a new water resources measure and a long-term Coast Guard reauthorization.
Industry officials expect Mica’s surface-transportation bill to be pared back from the $500-billion measure that current Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) proposed last year. Oberstar was defeated in his re-election bid on Nov. 2.
Jay Hansen, National Asphalt Pavement Association vice president for government affairs, says that Mica has said that current revenue flowing into the Highway Trust Fund is not sufficient to finance all current surface-transportation programs. According to Hansn, Mica has talked about using the general fund�not the trust fund�to finance bike paths and other transportation “enhancement” category projects.