Transportation bill a prime chance for bipartisan achievement in a divided government

One of the biggest surprises of Tuesday’s election was the change in leadership in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The chairmanship will change as the Republicans took the House, as expected, but Chairman James Oberstar’s surprise loss in his re-election bid will shake up the leadership as Democrats become the new minority.

What this all means for the multi-year transportation bill is still unclear.

Regardless of the changes in political makeup or committee leadership, Congress is almost certain to be taking up a long-term bill in 2011, with the Administration set to release its proposal for a multi-year transportation early next session. Interestingly, infrastructure may be one area where we can hope for bipartisan action, Transportation for America director James Corless said in a statement today:

“Now that the election is behind us, it is time for Congress and the Administration to put partisan acrimony aside and get to work on one bill that is absolutely vital for economic recovery and long-term prosperity: the multi-year transportation authorization that has languished since expiring in September of last year.

Historically, this is one arena in which both Democrats and Republicans have been able to work together, and this time should be no different. Previous bills have been passed by divided governments under presidents Nixon, Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Clinton.