California congressman: Highways are constitutionally mandated, bike paths not a federal concern
Photo: Rep. Duncan Hunter’s websiteThanks to the new Republican majority, the United States Constitution has been having its 15 minutes of fame recently, with members of the 112th Congress reading it (or most of it, anyway) on the floor of the House as they convened earlier this month. The GOP also instituted a rule requiring lawmakers to cite the constitutional authority for every bill they submit, although they haven’t exactly gotten around to following that one yet.
To show just how serious Republicans are about our government’s foundational document, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has organized some classes on the subject, with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia leading the first one. According to The Wall Street Journal, the event attracted fewer than three dozen participants, but hey, it’s a start.
So maybe it’s no real surprise that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) invoked the constitution when asked about his new role on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He told Tanya Snyder of Streetsblog Capitol Hill this:
And I kind of like the fact, frankly — it sounds kind of corny — but the constitution talks about having a military and being able to pay for your postal roads. It’s one thing Congress does and it’s nice to be able to do something constitutional here. It’s actually backed up and actually it’s in the constitution. I like that.
Hunter is referring to the “postal clause” of the constitution. You can read a bit about how it has been interpreted here.
The congressman went on to explain that he sees a constitutional basis for mandated funding of highways, but that bike paths shouldn’t be part of a transportation bill:
Streetsblog: I was just in an [Environment and Public Works] Committee hearing and there was some talk about the fact that some small amount of money in the [transportation] reauthorization historically gets used for things like bike trails. Some people think that’s waste; some people think biking is a mode of transportation. What do you think?
Duncan Hunter: I don’t think biking should fall under the federal purview of what the Transportation Committee is there for. If a state wants to do it, or local municipality, they can do whatever they want to. But no, because then you have us mandating bike paths, which you don’t want either.
SB: But you’re OK with mandating highways?
DH: Absolutely, yeah. Because that’s in the constitution. I don’t see riding a bike the same as driving a car or flying an airplane.
SB: How is it different?
DH: I think it’s more of a recreational thing. That’s my opinion.
Rep. Hunter’s office has not yet returned my call for clarification of his comments.