NHTSA Nominee’s Committee Vote Delayed

May 25, 2018

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee abruptly pulled the nomination of Heidi King to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from its markup schedule earlier this week. The nomination has not been rescheduled for a vote.

King’s nomination, along with several others, had been scheduled for a May 22 Commerce markup. But King did not (or could not, given pressures from higher-ups in the Trump Administration) give answers to several auto safety questions at her May 16 confirmation hearing that Democrats found acceptable, particularly on the ongoing Takata airbag recall. And on May 21, a major auto safety advocacy group issued a statement asking the committee “to hold off on bringing Ms. King’s nomination to a vote until NHTSA’s actions begin to match her rhetoric when it comes to carrying out the agency’s statutorily mandated safety mission.”

So it seemed that Democrats were going to vote unanimously to defeat, or defer, the King nomination. Republicans still have a 14 to 13 majority, but unanimous Democratic opposition means that unanimous Republican support is also necessary. To complicate matters, the Commerce markup was scheduled at the same time as the Armed Services Committee markup of the annual defense authorization bill. Four Commerce Republicans also serve on Armed Services, which meant the odds were good that all 14 Republicans were not going to be physically present in the room the entire time.

It is not quite clear whether the problem going to be the Democrats leaving the room to deny a quorum on the King nomination or if there is an inconsistency in the Commerce Committee rules about proxy voting on nominations (their rules can be found here), but either way, Commerce chairman John Thune (R-SD) chose to pull the King’s nomination from the schedule.

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