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Live Blogging: Congressman Oberstar on Transportation Policy

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12:00 p.m. The title of Congressman Jim Oberstar's (MN-08) talk today at the Humphrey Institute is "Transportation Policy and America's Future." Oberstar is the Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, after serving more than a decade as its ranking Democratic member. In part due to the 17-term Congressman's Chairmanship, Oberstar was ranked by Congress.org this year as the most powerful MN delegate in the U.S. House, and the 51st most powerful House member in the body.

12:05 p.m. Oberstar -- 44 years prior - served as a clerk for a Transportation subcommittee (Rivers and Harbors), which makes him the first staffer to ever become chair of a committee in the history of the House.

12:10 p.m. Oberstar stresses the importance of investing in transportation, throughout the history of the development of the U.S. The Congressman has held 59 hearings already this session, and more than a dozen bills have been passed by the committee. Twenty-eight transportation bills and resolutions have been passed by the House this year.

12:15 p.m. Oberstar demonstrates how improved transportation infrastructure is key for U.S. business (e.g. agriculture) to compete on the international market. He states under his Committee leadership the House has passed key legislation - such as expanding the locks on the Mississippi - which will help lower these transportation costs.

12:20 p.m. The Transportation Committee is known for generally being one of the more bi-partisan committees in the House of Representatives (unlike other powerful committees, such as the Committee on the Judiciary or the Committee on Ways and Means).

12:23 p.m. It will be interesting to see if Oberstar discusses the federal role in rebuilding the lock system in and around New Orleans now almost two years after Hurricane Katrina (and, if not, whether an audience member will raise the issue).

12:25 p.m. Pork has often been associated with transportation legislation - and the number of questionable transportation projects that have been contemplated and undertaken in recent years is long (e.g. the Bridge to Nowhere, the Big Dig etc.). Oberstar, for his part, has been able to bring one-quarter of the state's federal transportation to his own Congressional district (which has just one-eighth of the state's population).

12:35 p.m. Congressman Oberstar's knowledge of and passion for transportation is quite evident, as he speaks with great enthusiasm in his authoritative baritone. Oberstar speaks with downright glee about his newfound position of power as committee chair and the legislation they are able to undertake - such as requiring solar power energy plans for federal office buildings.

12:40 p.m. Center for the Study of Politics and Governance Director Larry Jacobs now moderates a question and answer session with the Congressman. Oberstar describes his power as committee chairman as the 'power of initiative.'

12:45 p.m. Oberstar states he is against re-regulation of the airline industry. The federal government still has a role in airline security, of course, and Congress will step in regarding monopolistic actions etc. He also adds "essential air service" (requiring airlines - with federal funds - to provide air travel to remote, smaller communities - such as International Falls in his own district) is still important. Some 150 communities have been so designated by the federal government.

12:55 p.m. Oberstar expresses his frustration with Governor Pawlenty and the state legislative republicans who prevented the passage of DFL-led legislation to provide additional funds in Minnesota (through taxation) for state transportation projects this legislative session. The Congressman jokes he would liked to have "traded governors" with Wisconsin for one legislative session.

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2 Comments


  • will you be getting a raise this year? talk of raising tax's is going on right now. and i want to know if you are getting a raise this year?are you included in this tax raise? how about you freeze all tax's, wages,and retail prices. that is a good idea.......it will work and has worked in the past.

  • I think the case against periodically scattering shards of broken glass in the streets is pretty clear, but in case it's not -- doing so would be hazardous to pedestrians, cyclists, commercial vehicles, etc., and as such it doesn't suggest itself as a reasonable method of discouraging automobile use. Jacking up the tax on cars sounds like a good idea to me. I'd also favor congestion pricing, reduction in the amount of free parking made available, etc.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

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    Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

    Political Crumbs

    Six for Thirteen

    Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


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    Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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