It was a back-to-the-future moment.
Rep. Bill Shuster, the Pennsylvania Republican taking over the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, received the gavel in a packed room that featured his 81-year-old father, Bud, who presided over the panel for six years in the late 1990s.
And it wasn’t just any gavel:
Outgoing chairman John Mica, the Florida Republican, presented Shuster one made out of wood from a barn on the Shuster family farm. The son commented that he hoped the barn was still standing, seeing as the father had engineered the removal of the beam that provided the wood.
The committee gave Bud Shuster a standing ovation. There was a nostalgia for the old days, when the committee really was bipartisan. Rep. Nick Rahall, the panel’s senior Democrat, recalled how Bud Shuster used to attend his fundraisers.
“That’s the way we used to do things,” Rahall said, addressing the newly expanded committee’s 19 freshmen. “Let’s stand together, even against our party leaders if necessary. Let’s let politics stop at the committee’s doors.”
If the cultural makeover happens, it will be quite a change from Mica’s two years in charge. Democrats repeatedly complained of being cut out of negotiations during the all-important surface transportation bill talks. Mica pronounced the final highway law the most Republican ever written by Congress.