June 20th, 2013
Transportation industry watchers are following the Massachusetts Senate special election closely. The expectation is that Rep. Ed Markey (D) will win the special election, to be held June 25. Markey’s potential ascent from the House of Representatives to the Senate would set in motion events that could displace Rep. Peter Defazio (D – OR) from the House Transportation Committee.
Markey does not sit on the Transportation Committee. But, his move to the Senate would change the Democratic leadership structure in the House. Markey is the Ranking Member for the Natural Resources Committee. Defazio would be the next member in line for that role. Defazio is presently the Ranking Member for the Highways and Transit subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. If Defazio were to take over the role on the Natural Resources Committee, he would be required to leave the Transportation Committee, since the Democratic caucus does not allow any member to hold two roles as a Ranking Member.
Transportation industry followers are concerned about this potential development, because the current committee will oversee the renewal of the MAP-21 program. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, widely called MAP-21, was passed into law in 2012. MAP-21 covers $105 billion dollars in spending over two years. The pending 2013 reauthorization will affect all transportation programs with reductions in spending amounting to $16.3 billion for the period from 2012 to 2022.
Potential replacements for Defazio include Eleanor Holmes Norton (D – DC), Jerrold Nadler (D – NY) and Corrine Brown (D – FL).
Norton is seen as unlikely to take Defazio’s post on Transportation. However, she is the third ranking Democrat. The Democrats generally defer to seniority. This means Norton would have the most senior claim on Defazio’s place as Ranking Member on Transportation. She is considered unlikely to leave her role as Ranking Member on the Economic Development and Public Buildings committee. She has told reporters she will consider taking over Defazio’s role on Transportation if it becomes available.
Nadler is the fourth ranking Democrat. He is currently the second ranking Democrat on Transportation. However, he is the ranking member on the Constitution subcommittee of Judiciary Committee. Judiciary Committee assignments are generally not relinquished. Nadler has passed over previous opportunities to take the Ranking Member role on the Transportation Committee.
Brown is the Ranking Member on the Rail Subcommittee of Transportation. She is the fifth ranking Democrat. In her current role, Brown’s subcommittee oversees pipelines and rail transport. Brown is considered the most likely ranking member to opt to slide over to the Highway and Transit assignment.
Should those three decide to not take over Defazio’s role, the next ranking Democrats would be Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Elijah Cummings (MD) and Rick Larsen (WA). Transportation watchers will keep a close eye on possible developments.