Another Shuster from Pa. rises in Congress

Posted: May 22, 2012

WASHINGTON — Bud Shuster was criticized for pork-barrel spending as often as he was credited with shepherding key projects that built Pennsylvania’s infrastructure.

Now it appears the former congressman’s son, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R., Pa.), could take over as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the powerful post the elder Shuster held from 1995 to 2001, when term-limit rules prevented him from continuing for a seventh year.

Those same rules require Rep. John Mica (R., Fla.) to step down at the end of the year. Mica, however, has been pressing for a waiver that would allow him to stay on as chairman. Waivers are seldom granted, but Mica has been arguing that he’s led the committee for only two years; during his first four, Democrats were in control, and he was the ranking minority member, not chairman.

Without a waiver, another Shuster could be in line to steer the committee. That, of course, is dependent on the GOP’s holding on to the majority in the next term.

It also depends on the 34-member House Republican Steering Committee, which is responsible for committee assignments. Bill Shuster is on that committee, and he appears to be in the good graces of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio), who controls four votes on the steering committee.

“He seems to enjoy a good relationship with John Boehner, and I think John Boehner looks to him for his advice on transportation issues,” said Delaware County Republican Pat Meehan, who also serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Brendan Buck, spokesman for Boehner, said Thursday he could not speculate on decisions that are months away.

Committee members and staffers in other Republican offices said they wouldn’t be surprised to see the six-term Pennsylvania representative land the post. “From the get-go, even as a new member of Congress, he has always been very, very engaged on transportation issues, and I’m sure his dad’s work rubbed off,” said one GOP aide, who asked not to be identified.

Bud Shuster, who became a transportation lobbyist after leaving Congress, is rooting for his son.

“There are several guys senior to him, and yet all the money seems to be on him,” the elder Shuster said. “I’m thrilled that Bill has been doing so well.”

Bill Shuster, who was not available for comment Friday, is chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure’s subcommittee on railroads, pipelines, and hazardous materials and also has led the subcommittee on economic development, public buildings, energy, and management.

“Bill Shuster understands transportation issues intimately, and he has earned the respect of colleagues,” Meehan said. “He’s an energetic guy, and he digs into the issues.”

Ascension would make him the highest-ranking Pennsylvanian in Congress and the first member from the state to chair a congressional committee since his father resigned in 2001.

Pennsylvania has lost a lot of its pull in Washington since 1996, when its representatives controlled four of the House’s 21 committees, including transportation.

“Years ago, Pennsylvania was a powerful state because of those chairmen. We don’t have that now, and we know Pennsylvania ranks worst in the nation in terms of the number of roads and bridges in need of repair,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R., Pa.). “It would be good to have someone chairing the committee who understand the roads, the sewers, the bridges, the locks, the dams, the pipelines, and everything.”

If Shuster gets the post, his challenges will be different from the ones his father faced. The elder served before earmarks were banned and before the drilling of expansive natural gas reserves that are spurring changes in the nation’s energy-delivery infrastructure.

One of Shuster’s major transportation initiatives is a new law increasing civil penalties for irresponsible operators of pipelines carrying oil, natural gas, or hazardous liquids. The penalties provide another incentive for operators to properly mark pipelines and comply with safety standards.

Shuster also has been a proponent of legislation that would increase private-sector rail service, creating competition for Amtrak.

Contact Tracie Mauriello at 703-996-9292 or tmauriello@post-gazette.com.

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