Rep. Don Payne Jr. Dies at 65

Representative Donald Payne Jr. (D-Newark, NJ) died on April 24 from a heart attack he suffered on April 6. Payne was the ranking minority member on the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, and chaired the subcommittee during the prior 117th Congress (2021-2022).

Praise for Payne came in from both sides of the aisle. Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) said “our bipartisan work at T&I always benefited from [Payne’s] leadership and willingness to work across the aisle to get things done for America’s infrastructure.  In particular, he most recently led T&I Democrats in our ongoing work to reauthorize the federal pipeline safety programs – a bill we passed out of committee overwhelmingly, thanks in no small part to his efforts.”

And ranking minority member Rick Larsen (D-WA) added “Donald was a fierce friend and advocate for rail workers, supporting their bid for sick leave, higher wages, and improved working conditions. His efforts helped support a historic agreement that would strengthen the safety and quality of life for our essential rail workers. His work to advance rail safety legislation, especially in the wake of the derailment in East Palestine, will remain an important part of his legacy that Congress must continue to realize.”

And Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg added that Payne was “a pleasure to work with and a widely respected leader whose work helped shape transportation policy in America for the better. My thoughts are with his wife, Bea, and their three children.”

Payne had served in the House, and on the T&I Committee, since 2012, when he succeeded his father, Donald Payne, who had served 22 years in that same House seat. Given that, one might expect Donald Payne III to succeed his father in Congress, but while Payne Jr. was 53 years old and already President of the Newark City Council when his father died, Payne III is a 25-year-old middle school social studies teacher at a Catholic school in Livingston. (This isn’t to say that he would not seek the seat or even be selected by the party, but it’s a larger list of possibilities this time, per the New Jersey Globe.)

Meanwhile, Larsen must choose another ranking minority member on the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, who would then stand a good chance of becoming chairman during reauthorization of the bipartisan infrastructure law, if Democrats retake the House majority. Seniority plays a major, but not completely dominant, role here, and since members are generally limited to one subcommittee gavel, some have chosen places other than T&I. Per the Clerk of the House, here is a current list of the 20 most senior T&I Democrats and whether or not they have a subcommittee ranking membership.

The 20 Most Senior Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Member Service Ranking Minority Member Slot
Larsen (WA) 2001 T&I – Full Committee
Holmes Norton (DC) 1991 T&I – Highways and Transit
Napolitano (CA) 1999 T&I – Water Resources
Cohen (TN) 2007 T&I – Aviation
Garamendi (CA) 2009 Armed Services – Readiness
Johnson (GA) 2007 Judiciary – Courts, IP, & Internet
Carson (IN) 2008 Intelligence – CIA
Titus (NV) 2013 T&I – ED, PB, and EM
Huffman (CA) 2013 Natural Resources – Water, Wildlife, & Fisheries
Brownley (CA) 2013 Veterans Affairs – Health
Wilson (FL) 2011 Ed. & Workforce – Higher Education
Payne (NJ) 2012 T&I – Railroads, Pipelines, & Hazmat
DeSaulnier (CA) 2015 Ed. & Workforce – Health, Labor, Pensions
Carbajal (CA) 2017 T&I – Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Stanton (AZ) 2019 no subcommittee RMM post
Allred (TX) 2019 no subcommittee RMM post
Davids (KS) 2019 no subcommittee RMM post
Garcia (IL) 2019 no subcommittee RMM post
Pappas (NH) 2019 Veterans Affairs – Disability Assistance
Moulton (MA) 2015 Armed Services – Strategic Forces

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