The lead Senate committee for drafting the still-unfinished highway and transit bill will have several new members when the 109th Congress convenes in January. The proposed Republican lineup for all the Senate committees, announced Dec. 20, includes four new members for the Environment and Public Works Committee, all of whom won election in November: David Vitter (La.), John Thune (S.D.), Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Johnny Isaakson (Ga.).
New Democratic members on Environment and Public Works, announced Dec. 6, are Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) and newly elected Barack Obama (Ill.). Lautenberg was on the committee during his first stint in the Senate, which ended in 2001. Lautenberg's retirement was brief: he won a 2002 race, but wasn't on the environment committee in 2003-2004.
Democrats who are leaving the environment committee are Harry Reid (Nev.), the new Minority Leader, Bob Graham of Florida, who is retiring, and Ron Wyden of Oregon, who is shifting to the Finance Committee.
The four new GOP members replace Mike Crapo (Idaho), John Cornyn (Texas), Craig Thomas (Wyo.) and Wayne Allard (Colo.). Crapo moved to the Finance Committee and Allard to Appropriations.
The "EPW" committee has jurisdiction over the largest portion of the surface transportation bill, the sections that deal with highways. Congress will have to take action of some sort on transportation reauthorization by May 31, when a short-term extension of the highway and transit programs expires. Industry continues to seek a multi-year bill, which would be the successor to the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.
Among Republicans on the banking committee, which has jurisdiction over mass transit, newly elected Mel Martinez of Florida, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, replaces Lincoln Chafee (R.I.). Democrats lose one seat on Banking--retiring Zell Miller of Georgia won't be replaced. But Democrats will have to replace Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who has announced that he will run for governor of the Garden State.
On other Senate committees important to construction, Allard will be the lone new member on Appropriations, replacing his fellow Coloradan, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who is retiring. The Democrats' lineup on Appropriations is unchanged, except for the departure of Ernest (Fritz) Hollings (S.C.), who is retiring.
On the Finance Committee, Crapo is the only new GOP member, replacing the retiring Don Nickles of Oklahoma. New Democrats on Finance are Oregon's Wyden and Charles Schumer of New York. They replace Tom Daschle (S.D.), who lost his re-election bid, and John Breaux (La.).