WASHINGTON — The outgoing chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee – Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who was defeated in the Nov. 2 elections – fears increased polarization along party lines when the new Congress is seated in January.
In an interview published by cnn.com, Oberstar, who was known to exert great effort to reach bipartisan agreement, said:
“I think there will be a significant loss of ability to moderate and mediate and bring consensus together … what the election brought into the Republican Party are persons who are committed to the more extreme conservatism, and on the Democratic side those who are more hard-core liberals … governance is best when you govern from the center and reach out to bring the views of both sides to a compromise.”
Oberstar was not speaking about the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee leadership, where most transportation legislation affecting UTU airline, bus and rail members originates.
In fact, there was considerable bipartisan agreement among the T&I committee’s leadership under Oberstar’s chairmanship; and, previously, the chairmanship of now retired Republican Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania, when Oberstar was the ranking Democrat on the committee.
The new chairman of the T&I Committee will be nine-term House member John Mica (R-Fla.), who was the ranking Republican when Oberstar was chairman.
The ranking Democrat in the 2011-2012 Congress will be Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), a 17-term veteran who is respected for his efforts at seeking bipartisan consensus.
Oberstar, who will depart Congress Dec. 31, has served in the House for 18 two-year terms.