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Congressional Republican leaders are promoting long-standing infrastructure and energy priorities as candidates continue to hit the campaign trail this fall.
GOP leaders with high-profile roles in transportation policy are pressing for domestic energy independence as they call for a strict view of the $1 trillion infrastructure law’s implementation.
With the midterm elections less than a month away, each party is loudly championing its agenda as they vie to control the House and Senate next year.
“We were at a point where we were literally energy independent; we were actually exporting energy. We’ve now, again, become dependent upon OPEC and other countries because of this administration’s resistance and outright assault on American energy production,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said recently, referring to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Thune is a member of his caucus’ leadership team.
“This is the price that America pays when we aren’t willing to make the investment and have policies that support the encouragement of American energy production,” he continued. “By not having an energy policy, not committing to an all-the-above American energy plan, we have now a dependence upon foreign sources, including dictators like Venezuela and in places in the Middle East.”
Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has taken aim at foreign policy directives as well as the White House’s energy agenda.
“Democrats are congratulating themselves because gasoline prices have slipped from their more-than-$5-per-gallon peak,” said Barrasso. “But families are still paying about $1.30 more per gallon than the day Joe Biden took office.
“It is no mystery why prices are lower — the economy is in recession. In a thriving economy still emerging from the pandemic, gasoline demand should have increased this summer compared with last summer.”
For their part, Republicans on the transportation panel in the U.S. House are again raising concerns about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s implementation. The policy law was enacted Nov. 15. Central to their debate is a Federal Highway Administration memorandum from Dec. 16 suggesting state agencies prioritize maintenance of infrastructure projects. A “fix it first” approach to repairing infrastructure was a pillar of senior Democrats and the Biden administration.
“We are concerned over the promulgation of recent [U.S. Department of Transportation] rules and guidance materials that, we believe, seek to implement policies that were either rejected by Congress or are demonstrative of perverse agency decision-making,” key House Republicans wrote Sept. 23 to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This is compounded by Biden administration-led efforts to impose partisan policies governmentwide. Furthermore, it appears as though DOT and the administration are implementing these policies that violate the spirit of law.”
The letter was signed by Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the transportation panel’s ranking member, Aviation Subcommittee ranking member Garret Graves (R-La.), Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee ranking member Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee ranking member Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), Highways and Transit Subcommittee ranking member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee ranking member Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee ranking member David Rouzer (R-N.C.).
Top Democrats, meanwhile, maintain a focus on their legislative record since Biden’s inauguration. The legislative achievements include the IIJA, comprehensive climate change and semiconductor production measures and big-ticket COVID-19 relief packages.
On Oct. 7, the president took aim at political challengers.
“If Republicans take control of the Congress,” he said, “these historic victories we just won for the American people are going to be taken away. Every kitchen table cost is going to go up, not down.”
The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)
Oct. 11, 8 a.m.: Axios hosts a panel discussion titled, “A Global Look at Energy Reliability, Independence & the Environment.”
A bill that would prohibit an administration from banning federal energy leasing and mineral withdrawals without approval from Congress recently was introduced by two senior House Republicans. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) of the transportation and infrastructure committee and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) of the natural resources panel are sponsoring the Transparency and Production of American Energy Act.
The bill also would require the Interior Department to resume quarterly lease sales on federal lands, according to background the sponsors provided.
“We need to make America energy independent again. We have all the tools to do it — the Biden administration just lacks the willpower to get the job done,” Graves said Sept. 29.
Westerman added, “American families have been on the front lines of dealing with the Biden administration’s failed energy policies.”
John Fetterman (left) and Dr. Mehmet Oz
The political class got a wake up call when The Cook Political Report classified the Pennsylvania Senate race a “toss-up.” That recent announcement by the plugged-in media watcher marked a dramatic shift in what seemed as a likely victory for Democratic nominee John Fetterman. To help shift the balance of power in the race, the GOP has blanketed airwaves with hard-hitting TV ads that benefit Republican candidate Mehmet Oz, a television personality. Fetterman, who suffered a stroke earlier this year, is on the stump pushing an independent-centric Democratic policy platform.
The winner of the Pennsylvania contest is likely to solidify his party’s control of the chamber, as well as hold a powerful seat on an infrastructure committee. Whatever Pennsylvanians decide to do in November, their actions will be instrumental in determining the national outlook for the next two years.
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The Last Word
National Pedestrian Safety Month allows us to really focus on the solutions that keep more Americans safe when they choose to walk.
Federal Transit Administrator Nuria Fernandez on Oct. 3
We publish Mondays when Congress is in session. We also are publishing weekly during the 2022 midterm elections. See previous installments of Capitol Agenda here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.
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