The latest House retirement is going to shift the discussion on transportation

Retirement season is heating up, and while much of the current attention has been focused on Senator Hatch and the questions of Romneygeddon, there are others heading off to spend more time with their families. One of the latest is Republican Congressman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania’s 9th District. The head of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has announced that he will be retiring at the end of this term. (Politico Morning Transportation Letter)

SHUSTER OUT IN 2018: House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) announced Tuesday that he’s stepping down at the end of his term, joining his father, Bud Shuster, in the annals of T&I history. The move isn’t surprising: Term limits would evict him from the chairmanship after next year and there wasn’t an obvious promotion available to him. “Rather than focusing on a re-election campaign, I thought it wiser to spend my last year as Chairman focusing 100% on working with President and my Republican and Democratic colleagues in both Chambers to pass a much needed infrastructure bill to rebuild America,” Shuster said in a statement.

This isn’t a particularly competitive district so Shuster exiting shouldn’t factor into the midterm battle too much. (Shuster won in 2016 by a 63-36 margin.) But his departure is going to have a huge impact on one story which we’ve been covering closely here for the past couple of years. The congressman was the primary force behind the drive to attempt to spin off Air Traffic Control oversight from the federal government in a half-baked “privatization” scheme which has attracted little to no support in Congress. (Though President Trump has endorsed the idea.) As Politico reports, this is pretty much the death knell for that scheme.

Death knell for ATC plan: Shuster’s impending departure, and his commitment to “focusing 100 percent” on infrastructure, signals that he may be giving up the fight to push the air traffic control system out of the FAA. Neither of his likely successors as chairman, Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) or Sam Graves (R-Mo.), have indicated an interest in picking up the mantle if they get the gavel (and if the Republicans maintain control of the House.) Of course, the must-pass FAA bill appeared unpassable as long as Shuster’s ATC provision was attached, so it was likely a losing battle anyway.

This could actually position Shuster quite well for a positive send-off. If he’s spending all of his time working on the infrastructure bill negotiations, he’ll receive a lot of support from both the White House and the GOP. And it’s a good fit since transportation issues are bound to be a major factor in any sort of infrastructure bill. Also, he was around for the total debacle of the Obama infrastructure plan during the early days of that administration and no doubt remembers how much money went up in smoke while producing very little in the way of “shovel ready jobs” or actual transportation projects. The “lessons learned” aspect of these negotiations will be vital and Bill Shuster can well speak to them.

Where will he be heading after his retirement? He’s certainly got the connections to land something on K-Street or as a lobbyist in the transportation sector. Or perhaps he can just head back home to the Keystone State and relax. He’s still fairly young at 56 so he should have plenty of options, but he’s not giving any indications of what comes next.

Here’s wishing Congressman Shuster well in the private sector (or whatever he chooses to do next) and a not-so-fond farewell to the ATC privatization scheme. May it rest in pieces.

David Strom 7:01 PM on September 24, 2022