FAA Nominee To Be Confirmed by Senate Next Week; Amtrak Board Nominees Advance Through Committee

FAA Administrator-nominee Mike Whitaker breezed through his confirmation vote in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on October 18, getting the unanimous approval of the panel.

The following day, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) set in motion a process that will probably lead to Whitaker’s being confirmed by the full Senate on Tuesday, October 24.

Schumer scheduled a Senate floor vote on a motion to invoke cloture (shut off debate) for 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, the first roll call vote of the week. Assuming that this motion gets at least 60 votes (and, with unanimous committee approval, it should), there would then be up to two hours of debate on the nomination and then a final vote on his confirmation, with only a simple majority needed for that vote.

At that same markup session, the Commerce Committee also broke the logjam over President Biden’s regional bias towards Northeast Corridor states for his Amtrak Board of Directors nominees. Although Congress recently changed the law (49 U.S.C. §24302) to mandate that no more than four of the eight at-large Amtrak Board members can reside in Northeast Corridor states. Biden wound up nominating a slate of six nominees, five of whom are from NEC states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and two from Maryland). Republicans and at least a few non-NEC Democratic Senators objected, and the Commerce Committee was unable to move any of the six nominees to a vote.

The White House has apparently agreed to withdraw one of the NEC nominees – either Robin Wiessmann (D-Bucks County, PA), Samuel Lathem (D-Newark, DE), or David Capozzi (D-Gaithersburg, MD). We don’t know which one, but it probably won’t be Capozzi, because there is a separate clause in §24302 that says that one of the eight Board members has to be a person with a disability “who has a demonstrated history of, or experience with, accessibility, mobility, and inclusive transportation in passenger rail or commuter rail.” That seems custom-tailored for Capozzi, a paraplegic who helped write DOT’s rail transit implementation policies for the Americans With Disabilities Act (see his summary here).

So either Weissmann or Lathem have will eventually be withdrawn, and secure in that knowledge, the Commerce Committee on the 18th also advanced the nominations of Anthony Coscia (D-New Brunswick, NJ), Joel Szabat (R-Potomac, MD), and Christopher Koos (D-Normal, IN) to the full Senate.

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