The committees charged with overseeing transportation issues in the US will both undergo a series of leadership changes when the next Congress commences in January.

In the House, where Democrats won back majority control of the chamber in November’s mid-term elections, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-New York) will assume chairmanship of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which industry-watchers are hopeful will act on assembling an infrastructure package that includes increased funding for airports.

DeFazio will likely be joined in the ranking member slot by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri), after current chairman Bill Shuster decided to retire at the end of the term and Rep. Jeff Dunham (R-California)—Graves’s contender to the ranking member slot—lost his bid for re-election.

In the Senate, where Republicans grew their majority by two seats, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) is expected to be the new chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, as current chairman John Thune (R-South Dakota), who was instrumental in passing a multi-year bill to reauthorize the FAA, is set to become the Senate majority whip.

Wicker is notable for having co-authored the FAIR Fees Act with Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), which would have regulated the fees airlines charge for change, cancellation and baggage. That bill, which was left out of the final FAA reauthorization bill, was fiercely opposed by the airline industry.

Asked about Sen. Wicker during a call with reporters ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Airlines for America (A4A) SVP-legislative and regulatory policy Sharon Pinkerton said the industry has a “very good relationship” with the senator, and added the lobbying group considers the fees issue to have been “litigated,” and is not worried about another attempt to revive the effort.

It is still unclear who will be the committee’s ranking member following Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-Florida) failure in his bid to secure re-election to the Senate, but industry experts believe Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) are the two most likely candidates.

On the Nov. 15 conference call, A4A’s Pinkerton said airlines’ biggest concern about the new Congress is that Democrats in the House could try to increase taxes and fees on travelers, including raising the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) cap, which has remained at $4.50 per passenger flight segment for close to two decades. She also said she “has a suspicion” that a deal on infrastructure would likely begin in the lower chamber.

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com