Madison defends administration's proposed trust fund remedy (Photo: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (Minority staff))
The Senate has confirmed Thomas J. Madison, Jr., to be head of the Federal Highway Administration. The approval of Madison, former commissioner of the New York State Dept. of Transportation, came just before the Senate adjourned for a five-week break. The chamber bypassed a formal committee vote on his nomination, bringing it directly to the floor.
The swift action wasn't surprising, given the wide support Madison received at his confirmation hearing before the Environment and Public Works Committee just two days earlier.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who chaired the hearing, noted the magnitude of transportation infrastructure needs, observing that it would take $140 billion to upgrade all deficient bridges nationwide at a time when construction materials prices have risen sharply and the Highway Trust Fund faces a highway-account deficit next year.
But Clinton also said that Madison, with his New York background, is familiar with the state's extensive transportation network. She said she was "very pleased that the President has nominated [Madison] for this critical position."
The committee's top Republican, James Inhofe (Okla.) also endorsed Madison for the FHWA post. "I'm really impressed with this guy," Inhofe said. "Mr. Madison is the right one for the job...."
New York's senior senator, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who isn't a member of the "EPW" committee, spoke on Madison's behalf. Schumer noted that his wife was New York City's transportation commissioner when Madison headed the state DOT and added, "When I asked her about Mr. Madison, she spoke very highly of him, and she is a tough, tough grader."
Clinton asked Madison about the projected deficit in the Highway Trust Fund. Madison defended the Bush administration's preferred option, to shift about $3 billion to the trust fund's highway account from its financially stronger transit account. "I believe that the administration's proposal has merit," Madison said. With the money to be transferred on "an as-needed basis, it may be reasonable as a short-term solution to consider," he said.
But he added, "There's certainly also merit in looking at other potential solutions in combination" with the administration's idea. "There isn't a singular answer."