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Lecture Recap: Searching For Bipartisanship In An Era Of Partisanship

On May 30, ITS presented a very special panel event that
brought together two Washington, D.C.-based organizations working to devise
research-based, nonpartisan transportation policies. Emil Frankel, who worked
under President George W. Bush as Assistant
Secretary for Transportation Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation,
represented the Bipartisan Policy Center, founded with the help of “senior
statesmen” such as former Senators George Mitchell and Bob Dole. Joshua Schank, Ph.D., President and CEO of the
Eno Center for Transportation, and who formerly served as Transportation Policy
Advisor to Senator Hillary Clinton, also participated. The Eno Center is a non-partisan
think-tank that promotes policy innovation and provides professional
development opportunities across the career span of transportation
professionals.

UCLA Luskin Department of Urban Planning’s Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Martin Wachs moderated the event and hypothesized that the parties are
maintaining internal unity by “circling the wagons” on every issue.  In transportation, he thought this is being
exacerbated by perpetual deficits in the Highway Trust Fund that require
periodic bailouts from general revenues and President Obama’s own policy
initiatives such as high-speed rail. Mr.
Frankel concurred, noting that the most recent transportation program
authorization known as MAP-21 passed the Senate with 70 votes from members of
both parties but may have its impact blunted in the anti-spending House, whose
budget would limit expenditures from the Fund to the amount collected in fuel
taxes. Dr. Schank also agreed, recalling
that automatic opposition to any administration initiative began during the
second term of President George W. Bush. He said it was for this reason the White House did not draft MAP-21, but
rather left that task to the Senate.

The panelists discussed the influence of funding levels on
bipartisanship.  Dr. Schank noted that in
the past, an ever-expanding pie of federal funds lubricated relations between
the parties. Earmarks funded many questionable projects and so legislators had
few difficulties agreeing to long-term bills. This may have fueled what
Professor […]

By |June 27th, 2013|Categories: Uncategorized|