Washington, D.C. was flush with newbies yesterday, as both the House and Senate swore in the newest Members of Congress. With smiles on everyones faces, you know someone had to be up to no good. This time it was the House Republican Conference. They held their closed door meeting to discuss the new rules changes for the 112th Congress, something the majority does every two years.
The House Republican leadership proposed a key change to the way the Highway Trust Fund is protected from borrowing or spending any money on non-transportation projects. This protection makes perfect sense because the fund is generated from a federal fuel tax, so it is money generated by road users, for road users.
Republicans defeated an amendment to the rules package offered by Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), which would have preserved the linkage between incoming trust fund revenues and future federal investments. Under the LaTourette proposal the existing "point of order" protection against legislation that reduced investment below the supportable levels would have been retained, but any member would be allowed the opportunity to cut highway and transit investment through an amendment on the House floor. The LaTourette Amendment was voted on by secret ballot. As such, the votes of each Republican will not be made public and it is unclear at this time if the final vote tally will be released.
While today's developments are an obvious setback for the entire transportation community, the new rules package does not determine the outcome of subsequent legislation, nor does it require investment cuts. The new rule, however, certainly strengthens the hand of the House Appropriations Committee in setting highway and transit investment levels, irrespective of Highway Trust Fund revenues. House Republicans have been clear that they will be pursuing significant cuts in domestic discretionary spending and the defeat of the LaTourette Amendment signals that this could include highway and public transportation investment.
Despite the outcome of today's vote, Rep. LaTourette deserves the sincere appreciation of the entire transportation construction industry. Attempting to change a largely internal and leadership-driven process to protect the Highway Trust Fund shows his great leadership and support for federal transportation investment. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Mica (R-Fla.) also deserves our thanks as he supported and helped defend the LaTourette Amendment.
Special thanks goes out to MRF members and state motorcycle rights groups who aggressively weighed in on this issue over the last few days. While the outcome was not what we wanted, you can be certain your voice was heard, as many members of the House reported being inundated with calls from constituents. If anything, this situation reinforces the need to continue communicating with Congress
We have faced these challenges before and rest assured, we will continue to fight for the motorcyclists. Thank you again.
The NTSB has been quiet about motorcycles since adding the call for state helmet law to their "top ten most wanted list". The NTSB has no regulatory or enforcement abilities. Just the powers to make lists and try to recommend that the recipients of their advice, take it. The MRF will keep you updated on the NTSB and all actions affecting the motorcyclists of America.