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Summit Countdown #7: Make a Powerful First Impression on the New Congress

new-congress“No real change” was one of the narratives that came out of the November elections. The Democrats still control the Senate; Republicans maintain the balance of power in the House of Representatives.

The reality is a little different — especially for bicyclists.

There are 95 new members of Congress: 12 Senators and 83 Representatives. That’s a lot of change. In fact, it means that one out of every six members of the 113th Congress is new to town. And while Congressional staff will shuffle around from one office to another, there will also be a lot of new staff finding their feet when the National Bike Summit comes to town March 4-6.

If you’ve been to the Summit before, you know that, when members of Congress doesn’t know the answer to a transportation question, their first phone call is quite likely going to their Department of Transportation. So, if you trust your state DOT to give the best answer on issues affecting bicycling in your community, maybe you don’t need to come to the Summit this year. But if you want to make sure your Congressional delegation knows your views, knows you are a knowledgeable resource, and knows about some cool bike projects in their district or state — you need to be at the Summit to take care of business.

The most profound change in the 113th Congress, especially for transportation issues, is in the Committees and their staff. While there are only 12 new Senators, there’s been a veritable game of musical chairs going on within the Committees. Senator Boxer (D-CA) remains chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, but Senator Vitter (R-LA) is the new ranking member – replacing Senator Inhofe (R-OK) and most of his Committee staff.

On the House side, one-third of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee membership has changed. Out of 60 members, there are 10 new Republicans (nine new to Congress) and 10 new Democrats (seven new to Congress). The new Chair of the Committee, Bill Shuster (R-PA), announced no fewer than five new senior staff appointments just yesterday.

That’s a lot of change and a lot of new people in charge of our destiny as cyclists. There’s only one sure-fire way to make sure they know you mean business: to look them in the eye and make a personal connection.

We’ve got the stories to tell. We’ve got a compelling case to make. We need you at the National Bike Summit to welcome the 113th Congress to town.


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