Senate Commerce Approves STB, MWAA Nominees

April 26, 2018

At an incredibly brief business session yesterday, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved four bills and another round of nominees, including two nominees to the Surface Transportation Board and one to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Nominations approved by the panel included:

  • Patrick Fuchs to be a member of the Surface Transportation Board for a new 5-year term.
  • Michelle Schultz to be a member of the Surface Transportation Board for a new 5-year term.
  • Alan Cobb to be a member of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
  • Karl Schultz to be Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Charles Way to be Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Both Fuchs and Schultz are Republican nominees to the five-member STB, and no more than three of the five members can be of the same political party. STB Chairman Ann Begeman is also a Republican (and, like Fuchs, a former Senate Commerce staffer). It is customary for the full Senate to hold nominees to regulatory commissions until a bipartisan grouping can be confirmed simultaneously. (This happened this week, when the Senate confirmed a bipartisan package of five nominees to the Federal Trade Commission at once.)

Commerce chairman John Thune (R-SD) said at the markup that the White House should be making the nomination for the vacant Democratic seat on the STB soon, which would hopefully allow that nominee, along with Fuchs and Schultz, to be confirmed later this year.

The panel also approved the Maritime Authorization and Enhancement Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (S. 2717) by voice vote after amending it with a substitute version and then adding a Baldwin (D-WI) amendment extending Buy America provisions to MARAD’s Aid to Small Shipyards program.

Thune indicated that the MARAD bill would be rolled into the must-pass FY 2019 defense authorization bill later this year.

The markup took less than ten minutes, as Senators were anxious to head to the House side of the Capitol to see the President of France address a joint session of Congress. But after the business was done, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) kept Senators around for several minutes questioning the order in which MARAD is choosing to replace the training ships (funding permitting) at the five state merchant marine academies. (MARAD Administrator Buzby answered this question at a House Appropriations hearing the following day.)



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