Highway Bill Could Consume Petri’s Last Months in Congress

Rep. Tom Petri (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Tom Petri (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted April 11, 2014 at 5:59pm

Rep. Tom Petri announced Friday that he will retire from Congress at the end of the year, and he’s poised to go out with a legislative bang — or a whimper.  

The 73-year-old Wisconsin Republican’s last eight months on Capitol Hill will likely be consumed with negotiations over legislation to reauthorize funding for the nation’s highway and transit programs in his role as chairman of the subcommittee of jurisdiction.  

The stakes are high for a six-year reauthorization after 2012 efforts to pass a long-term transportation bill fell short and the fiscal health of the Highway Trust Fund is in deep peril. As a more moderate Republican who has always advocated for robust government investments in infrastructure, Petri is due to confront the challenge of getting lawmakers to go along with a major spending bill that could cause his more fiscally-conservative colleagues to balk.  

Alternatively, Petri could retire in December disappointed in the last surface transportation reauthorization bill to pass in the course of his 18-term House tenure. When the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was considering a major reauthorization in 2012, he was the only Republican to vote no, and not because it spent too much. He said it allocated too little.  

The fourth-most senior member of the House Republican Conference, Petri is the No. 3 member of the Transportation panel. His colleague Howard Coble, R-N.C., is No. 4, but with his retirement, too, Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., is due to move up in the ranks of the full committee. On the Highway and Transit Subcommittee, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is poised to become the most senior member.