Senate Confirms 3 New Amtrak Board Members, WH Re-Nominates STB Member

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate confirmed three new members of the eight-member Amtrak Board of Directors. (Eight regular members, that is, plus the ex officio Secretary of Transportation and the non-voting CEO.) These are the first Senate confirmations to the Board since December 2015.

On January 23, the Senate confirmed the following three nominees:

  • Anthony Coscia, the current Board chairman, was confirmed to a new five-year term by a vote of 79 to 18. (As the incumbent chair, Coscia bears some responsibility for everything Amtrak has done in recent years, good and ill, which makes it easier for anyone with an anti-Amtrak grudge to vote against him.) This is Coscia’s third term on the Board, having previously been confirmed by the Senate to an initial term in July 2010, and then a second term in December 2015. He has continued to serve in a perpetual holdover capacity, per subsection (a)(3) of 49 U.S.C. 24302, for the last four years.
  • Christopher Koos, the mayor of Normal, Illinois, was confirmed to a five-year term by a vote of 91 to 7. He replaces Thomas C. Carper (not the Senator), who served two five-year terms starting in March 2008 and August 2013 and has been serving as a holdover for the last five-and-a-half years.
  • Joel Szabat, a longtime USDOT staffer who served in leadership roles under both parties, was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 1, with Rand Paul (R-KY) the lone holdout.

Those three join holdovers Jeff Moreland (term expired June 2015), Albert DiClemente (term expired September 2017), and Yvonne Braithwaite Burke (term expired January 2018) on the Board, with David Capozzi, nominated to fill a never-filled vacant seat created by the FAST Act in 2015, still pending in committee.

President Biden, in the last session of Congress, nominated two more potential Amtrak members, Robin Wiessmann and Samuel Lathem, to replace Burke and DiClemente, respectively, but the Senate sent those back because they were both Democrats from Northeast Corridor states and, if both were confirmed in concert with the rest of Biden’s nominees, would have violated the legal limits on political party and regional balance on the Amtrak Board.

(Wiessmann was from Bucks County, Pennsylvania and would have replaced a Californian. Lathem was from Delaware and would have replaced DiClemente, who is also from Delaware, in what has apparently become the Permanent Delaware Seat on the Amtrak Board, with DiClemente having filled the seat previously held by noted rail expert Hunter Biden…)

In other rail nomination news, the White House announced yesterday that the President intends to re-nominate Patrick Fuchs to a second term as a member of the Surface Transportation Board. The paperwork was sent up later in the day and the nomination is now pending in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

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