One of the most crucial House committees for the construction industry will get a new leader when the 113th Congress convenes in January. House Republicans on Nov. 28 picked William "Bill" Shuster (R-Pa.) to be the next chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The T&I panel oversees most major federal public-works programs, including highways, transit, airports, Corps of Engineers civil works and Environmental Protection Agency wastewater treatment.
Major issues facing Shuster when he takes the gavel next year include drafting a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and a passenger-rail reauthorization and, most importantly, starting to develop a new surface-transportation bill.
The current highway-transit measure, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), expires on Sept. 30, 2014. Well before then, Shuster is expected to hold hearings and begin work on MAP-21's successor.
Jay Hansen, National Asphalt Pavement Association executive vice president, says, "Really, the major priority that he's going to have to have ... would be to find a long-term revenue source for the Highway Trust Fund," whose highway account is expected to drop into the red after MAP-21 lapses.
Before tackling highways and transit, Shuster is expected to focus on a new WRDA. One challenge will be to produce and pass a WRDA without earmarks. Earlier WRDAs were filled with provisions specifying funds for many locks and dams, dredging and environmental projects, solidifying votes from their House and Senate sponsors.
Shuster, 51, has been on the T&I panel since he was elected in 2001. He succeeds Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), who was about to hit the House GOP six-year limit for being a committee chair or ranking minority member. Mica asked House Republican leaders to waive the term-limit rule but was turned down. He then endorsed Shuster.
Industry officials expect Shuster to be a strong leader. Jeffrey Shoaf, Associated General Contractors senior executive director for government affairs, calls Shuster "extremely organized and extremely focused" and notes that he helped Mica sell MAP-21 to GOP colleagues.
Hansen says that, in the surface transportation arena, Shuster will "articulate clearly what his vision is and expect [outside stakeholders] to march … in tune with him."
Shuster is a familiar name on the panel: Bill's father, E.G. "Bud" Shuster, wielded substantial power as committee chairman from 1995 to early 2001.