Biden Fills Out Amtrak Nominee Slate; Senate Panel Approves Homendy, STB, FMC Nominees

President Biden nominated two new members for the Amtrak Board of Directors yesterday, as the Senate Commerce Committee approved several more transportation-related nominations for Senate floor consideration.

The nominees approved by the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee were:

  • Jennifer Homendy, in a dual re-appointment as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board and as its chairman;
  • Patrick Fuchs, for a new term as a member of the Surface Transportation Board; and
  • Dan Maffei and Rebecca Dye for new terms as commissioners on the Federal Maritime Commission (Dye should basically just be named member-for-life at this point, Congress having specifically grandfathered her from FMC term limits).

The two new Amtrak Board of Directors nominees, announced and transmitted on May 2, are:

Ronald Batory – Batory served as Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration under President Trump after 40 years of experience in the railroad sector. In particular, he ran the joint entity then co-owned by nine railroads that manages traffic in and around Chicago in the 1990s, which led CSX and Norfolk Southern to hire him to run the parts of their Conrail purchase that were to be run jointly and not fully absorbed into the networks of either carrier. He retired from Conrail in 2017 and then was selected to run the FRA (and confirmed by the Senate in 2018 by voice vote, no mean feat these days).

Elaine Marie Clegg – Clegg is the CEO of the Boise-area Valley Regional Transit authority (average weekday UPT: 3,732). A 20-year veteran of the Boise City Council, Clegg has been active in local and national land use and metropolitan planning advocacy organizations. On the Board, she can be expected to advocate for new Amtrak service between Portland and Salt Lake City (through Boise), which was left out of the Corridor ID grants from FRA last December but was on FRA’s “Conceptual Enhanced Network.”

Batory (R) and Clegg (D) bring the total number of pending Biden Amtrak nominees to four, on top of the three who were confirmed by the Senate earlier this year. Amtrak allows members whose terms have expired to serve as holdovers, with pay, forever or until the Senate confirms their successor, and at one point last year, the entire Board was holdovers.

As of right now, the Board looks like this:

Current Membership of the Amtrak Board of Directors

Current Member Tenure Pending Nominee
Pete Buttigieg Ex officio as Secretary of Transportation
Stephen Gardner Ex officio as Amtrak CEO (non-voting)
1 Anthony Coscia (D) Confirmed Jan. 2024
2 Christopher Koos (D) Confirmed Jan. 2024
3 Joel Szabat (R) Confirmed Jan. 2024
4 Yvonne Braithwaite Burke (D) Term expired Jan. 2018 Elaine Marie Clegg (D)
5 Albert DiClemente (D) Term expired Sept. 2017 Samuel Lathem (D)
6 Jeffrey Moreland (R) Term expired June 2015 none
7 vacancy (was Chris Beall (R)) Term expired Jan. 2018 Ronald Batory (R)
8 vacancy (never filled) New FAST Act position David Capozzi (D)

Party ID matters, as the law provides that no more than five of the eight Senate-confirmable members can be from the same political party. But state of residence also matters, as the law provides that the eight members have to provide representation from specific kinds of existing Amtrak routes:

  • 2 on the Northeast Corridor
  • 2 outside the NEC in a state served by a long-distance route
  • 2 outside the NEC in a state with a state-supported route
  • 2 from a state with any type of Amtrak service

(The inescapable conclusion is that citizens of South Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska and Hawaii are prohibited by law from service on the Amtrak Board of Directors because Amtrak has no service in those states.)

President Biden’s original slate of nominees to the Board over-represented the Northeast Corridor, causing a bipartisan revolt on the Commerce Committee and forcing the White House to withdraw some earlier nominees. (In fairness, this may have been because one of the picks was delegated to Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and the White House probably assumed McConnell would pick someone from Kentucky, but instead McConnell picked Joel Szabat from Maryland.)

Here is how the current slate of Biden nominees for the Amtrak Board fills out those residency requirements:

President Biden’s Pending/Confirmed Nominees for Amtrak Board of Directors
1 Ronald Batory (R) Santa Fe, NM Outside, LD
2 David Capozzi (D) Gaithersburg, MD On NEC
3 Elaine Marie Clegg (D) Boise, ID Outside, LD
4 Anthony Coscia (D) New Brunswick, NJ On NEC
5 Christopher Koos (D) Normal, IN Outside, LD and SS
6 Samuel Lathem (D) Newark, DE On NEC
7 Joel Szabat (R) Potomac, MD On NEC
8 no nominee (vacant)

In the #8 slot, holdover Jeff Moreland (R) is from Texas, outside the Northeast Corridor, and thus represents long-distance service (Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle) and state-supported (Heartland Flyer) service. If Biden’s current four nominees are confirmed, and the current or a future president decides to replace Moreland, the replacement would also have to be outside the NEC and from a state with a state-supported Amtrak route, which really narrows the number of eligible states to Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, California, Oregon, and Washington State (see map here).

Search Eno Transportation Weekly

Latest Issues

Happening on the Hill