Political reporter von Sternberg says Rep. Oberstar dwelt mainly on what he and the Democratic majority have accomplished:
It was billed as another high-minded Humphrey Institute forum over the lunch hour Monday, carrying the portentous title, “Transportation Policy and America’s Future.”
The event was to showcase the thoughts of DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar, the 17-term dean of Minnesota’s congressional delegation and the powerful chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
In fact, the hour-long session at the University of Minnesota was something of a victory lap by Oberstar after the opening months of the 110th Congress. He reveled in his use of the levers of power, touted how much has actually been accomplished, and backhanded the erstwhile Republican majority for its do-nothing ways.
“With the position I’m in now, I’m chairman and I can make this happen,” Oberstar said in so many words more than once, his face lit up with a smile.
If there was any doubt just how important the transportation committee is as a legislative gateway, he pointed out that it’s a primary way-station for $80 billion in federal spending “that moves America.”
He ticked off bills that already have cleared the committee, gone on to be passed by the full House or are still being negotiated with the Senate. Among them, implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s transporation recommendation, a rail transportation security bill, the water resources development act, the surface transportation bil, and the water resources bill.
“We’ve had 28 bills pass the House, which is more than in the full two years of the 109th Congress,” Oberstar said.
Oberstar took particular delight in prying loose a revolving loan fund for building sewage treatment plants around the country.
“That bill was delayed – Tom DeLayed – he wasn’t going to let it happen. But he’s gone.”
And Obserstar said he was especially proud that the Department of Energy’s department headquarters in Washington will be outfitted with an array of photovoltaic cells by year’s end, an energy conservation idea he’d taken up 20 years ago as a young congressman.
“I’m chairman now,” he said. “I can do that. And I did.”
Bob von Sternberg