Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., will replace Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
T&I is the key truck-related panel in the House, with oversight over the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It is the committee that will draft the next major highway bill, due in 2014.
Mica's departure was dictated by Republican rules limiting the terms of committee leaders he served as chairman for the past two years.
Mica had wanted a waiver of the term limit rule but withdrew his request when the GOP Steering Committee made it clear that the change must be made. He supported Shuster's appointment, telling House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that "Shuster has both the experience and ability to assume this important position for our conference."
Bill Shuster, a member of Congress since 2001, comes to the post with a family history in transportation and politics. His father, retired Congressman Bud Shuster, chaired the committee from 1995 to 2001.
Shuster this week moved quickly to set his agenda and name top staffers.
The first agenda item for everyone in Congress is the "fiscal cliff," but the committee's particular list starts with a water resources bill and a railroad reauthorization measure.
"Then he's planning to start laying the groundwork for the next highway reauthorization," said Mary Phillips, senior vice president of legislative affairs at American Trucking Associations.
Yesterday Shuster announced his appointment of Christopher Bertram as committee chief of staff. Bertram is a Hill veteran with experience in transportation, having served as staff director of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. He currently is chief financial officer at DOT.
Shuster also said that Stephen Martinko, his personal chief of staff, will be the committee's deputy chief of staff, and that Jennifer Hall will continue to serve as general counsel to the committee.
Another veteran staff member, Jim Tymon, will serve as senior advisor and staff director of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee.
Phillips applauded Shuster's appointment. "We think he'll be a great chairman," she said. "He has said he will reach across the aisle, and I think that's the kind of person he is. Things will be more bipartisan."
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said he looks forward to working with Shuster.
"We are optimistic he will advance legislation that will actually help the small-business truckers out there on the road," Spencer said in a statement.