Rep. Sam Graves is expected to be the next chairman of the committee that oversees the country's highway system, according to a source familiar with the talks between Graves and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster.
"Graves is in line to take over the highways subcommittee. He's received a verbal commitment from Shuster to take over at the beginning of next year," said the source, who heard directly from the congressman about the issue.
The Missouri Republican would replace Rep. Tom Petri who currently heads the House’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. Petri announced in the spring that he would retire after his current term. The subcommittee deals with overland transportation policy, highway construction and regulation of commercial motor vehicles, among other issues.
Graves, currently in his seventh term representing a northwest Missouri district, is the chairman of the House Small Business Committee, but is term-limited from serving in that capacity in the next Congress.
A spokesman for Graves told The Daily Beast, "I'm not aware of any verbal commitment, or any other commitment otherwise," but declined a request to ask the congressman about it. Asked for a straight confirmation or denial, the aide simply said he was not aware.
Spokespersons for the House Transportation Committee did not return requests for comment.
The top spot on the highways subcommittee is a relatively prestigious post. Its chair is responsible for leading efforts to direct billions of dollars toward transportation spending priorities.
In recent months, Congress has had trouble passing a highway bill amenable to both the Republican-controlled House and Democratically-controlled Senate. Lawmakers are currently searching for a suitable compromise as the nation’s Highway Trust Fund faces insolvency.
Negotiations on an extension revolve around a short-term plan to keep the fund filled through May, meaning that the next chairman of the highways subcommittee would play a crucial role in shaping a longer-term deal in the new Congress.