Get to Know the D.C. power crowd
This is the second installment in a series to help truckers get to know the committees and lawmakers that have a direct stake in shaping transportation and motor carrier safety.

By David Tanner, senior editor

Sen. Thad Cochran
Sen. Thad Cochran
R-MS
Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Mikulski
D-MD
Sen. Susan Collins
Sen. Susan Collins
R-ME
Sen. Jack Reed
Sen. Jack Reed
D-RI
Sen. Orrin Hatch
Sen. Orrin Hatch
R-UT
Sen. Ron Wyden
Sen. Ron Wyden
D-OR
Rep. Hal Rogers
Rep. Hal Rogers
R-KY
Rep. Nita Lowey
Rep. Nita Lowey
D-NY
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
R- FL
Rep. David Price
Rep. David Price
D-NC
Rep. Paul Ryan
Rep. Paul Ryan
R-WI
Rep. Sander Levin
Rep. Sander Levin
D-MI

The committee level is where a lot of the action happens on Capitol Hill. Most bills spend time in at least one committee before they ever get to the floor of the House of Representatives or Senate for a vote.

Having committee approval is not an automatic green light for a bill, but without committee approval, a bill is not likely to advance.

Getting to know the transportation-related committees can help truckers understand the process and communicate effectively with their lawmakers.

The previous issue of Land Line contained information about three committees and their subcommittees that help shape transportation policy and programs – the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

This installment of the “D.C. power crowd” takes a look at three committees that hold the wallet and control the purse strings on funding. Without their blessing on a proposal, nothing would get paid for.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as their subcommittees, are tasked with coming up with the specifics on funding.

Chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee in the 114th Congress is Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. Cochran is socially and fiscally conservative. He issued a press release in February saying he and the committee will scrutinize all spending proposals that arrive there.

The ranking Democrat on Senate Appropriations is Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

Appropriations bills are annual spending bills and are separate from the “highway bill” process, however, they also provide an avenue for some related proposals to receive a breath of life – or die on the vine. Congress has previously debated cross-border trucking, electronic logs and the 34-hour restart issue in appropriations bills.

Within the Senate Appropriations Committee is the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who went to bat for truckers on the 34-hour-restart issue, is the chair of that subcommittee. The ranking Democrat is Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is the ranking Democrat.

Hatch has been a supporter of the Highway Trust Fund and recently said that he would be open to exploring a number of funding options. Early talk of a fuel-tax increase has died down in recent weeks. Wyden, the former committee chairman, proposed but quickly dropped a proposal last year that would have doubled the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax from $550 to $1,100.

On the House side, the Appropriations Committee is chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., with Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., as the ranking member.

House Approps has its own Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

That is chaired by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and the ranking Democrat is Rep. David Price of North Carolina.

An important committee to the process but not one that gets a lot of mainstream attention is the House Ways and Means Committee. As far as where funding will come from for a future highway bill, this is where much of the discussion will take place outside of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., became chairman of Ways and Means following the retirement of Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. A social and fiscal conservative, Ryan supports tax reforms as a way to balance the budget. Transportation will factor into an overall reform plan. The ranking Democrat on House Ways and Means is Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan.

OOIDA’s Washington, D.C., office works to educate lawmakers and empower OOIDA members to do the same using FightingForTruckers.com and other resources. It’s important for truckers to be engaged in the process, OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley says.

“The action on trucking policy this year is likely to be focused on both the usual authorizing committees like House Transportation and Infrastructure, Senate Commerce and Senate EPW as well as the appropriations committees in both the House and Senate,” Bowley said.

“If your lawmaker isn’t on one of the policy committees, they may be on one of the other committees.” LL