U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R) of Kansas is putting a delay on the consideration by the U.S. Senate of three nominees to the Amtrak Board of Directors and wants a solid commitment from the carrier that the long-distance Southwest Chief route will be preserved.
Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson has arranged a meeting later in May with Moran and other senators who represent states that host the daily Chicago-to-Los Angeles route to discuss the Southwest Chief’s future, according to a report published by the Topeka Capital-Journal.
A number of candidates to transportation-related oversight posts in the federal government whose nominations were returned to President Donald Trump in early January have been renominated to those posts.
Thelma Drake has been renominated to be the administrator of the DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Lynn Westmoreland, Joseph Gruters and Rick Dearborn are again under consideration for positions on the Amtrak board of directors.
SMART Transportation Division opposes the nomination of Westmoreland, whose voting record as a U.S. representative shows he has a long history of voting against Amtrak funding.
“As a longtime member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Westmoreland has a hostile voting record against Amtrak, which includes efforts to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak entirely. In addition, Westmoreland has been an original cosponsor of the ‘National Right-to-Work Act’ on multiple occasions, which would significantly weaken our ability to collectively bargain. For these reasons, we oppose his nomination as it would undermine the core mission of Amtrak and its employees,” we reported when his nomination was initially introduced in October 2017.
Also renominated by the president are Michelle Schultz to the Surface Transportation Board (STB), and Michael Graham and Jennifer Homendy to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Homendy is currently serving a term on the board that runs out at the end of 2019.
Two nominations also were made to highway oversight positions — Heidi King to administer the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Nicole Nason to administer the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).
These nominations will be considered by U.S. Senate subcommittees before potential advancement for consideration by the full Senate.
Six nominees to transportation-related agencies were confirmed by the U.S. Senate via unanimous consent Jan. 2, including three Railroad Retirement Board members.
Johnathan Bragg, Thomas Jayne and Erhard R. Chorle were all confirmed to the RRB.
Bragg, the labor member of the board and national vice president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), will complete a term that expires this August and then commence a five-year term. Chorle, an Illinois attorney, will serve as RRB chairman with his term expiring in August 2022, and Thomas Jayne, a senior general attorney for BNSF, will represent management for a term that expires in August 2023.
Two vacancies on the Surface Transportation Board (STB) were also filled with the confirmations of Patrick Fuchs, who was a senior staff member of the Senate Commerce Committee, reporting to Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), and Martin J. Oberman, a former chairman of Metra, as members. They each will serve five-year terms. The board now will have three of its five seats filled.
Finally, Joel Szabat was confirmed as the federal DOT’s Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs.