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A Noticeable No-show

Thursday morning the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding a hearing to receive a commission report that recommends changes in transportation policy. But the witness list is noticeably missing an important member of the commission: the chairperson.

Mary Peters, Bush’s Secretary of Transportation, chaired the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. The heads of commissions often work hard to avoid the production of a dissenting minority report, as it undermines the bipartisan power of the recommendations. In Peters’ case, she lost so many members of her own commission that she wrote the dissenting report, joined by two other Republicans.

The dispute was ideological. The majority report recommended a gas tax increase to fund infrastructure improvements. Peters’ report suggested privatizing roads and bridges and increasing tolls.

A committee aide said that Peters was invited to the hearing, but that she declined to appear in her role as commission chair. Instead, said the aide, she asked to appear at a separate hearing as the Transportation Secretary. Her request was granted and that hearing will be held in a few weeks.

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