The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Thursday, February 26, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. to consider legislation and nominations.
1. H.R. 23, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2015, Sponsor: Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)
2. H.R. 34, Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015, Sponsor: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.)
3. H.R. 719, TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act of 2015, Sponsor: Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.)
4. H.R. 720, Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015, Sponsor: Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.)
5. S. 142, Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015, Sponsor: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)
6. S. 143, United States Merchant Marine Academy Improvements Act of 2015, Sponsor: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)
7. S. 253, Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015, Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
8. S. 304, Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, Sponsor: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
9. S. 373, Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, Sponsor: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
10. Nomination of Tho Dinh-Zarr, to be a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board for the remainder of the term expiring December 31, 2018
11. Nomination of Carlos A. Monje, Jr., to be an Assistant Secretary of Transportation
12. Nomination of Manson K. Brown, to be Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce
13. Nomination of William P. Doyle, to be a Federal Maritime Commissioner for a term expiring June 30, 2018 (reappointment)
14. Nomination of Christopher A. Hart, to be Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board for a term of two years
15. Nominations for promotions in the United States Coast Guard
* Agenda is subject to change
Click here for results of the executive session.
Executive Session Details:
A live video of the markup and additional information will be available on this page.
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for the webcast hearing, should contact Stephanie Gamache at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Chairman John Thune
"Good morning. Before we take up today’s agenda, I’d like to say a few words about the Elephant in the room – or perhaps it’s Pandora’s Box.
"Not far from here, the FCC is preparing to take what is likely its most controversial vote in modern times – a vote on whether to regulate the dynamic broadband Internet like a monopoly-era telephone service. I know there are very different views about the wisdom of the FCC’s actions.
"While I strongly oppose them, I think there are some things that can be said with certainty about today’s vote:
"First, it will be partisan – meaning that a change in a single vote or a single presidential election could lead to its undoing.
"Second, it will be challenged in court, as the FCC’s prior attempts to forge Open Internet rules have been – and may meet the same fate.
"And, third, it will include a promise of forbearance from many – likely most – of the provisions of Title II of the Communications Act – setting the stage for future debate about the FCC’s choices.
"Given these realities, it is my sincere hope that this Committee will yet act in a bipartisan manner to protect the Open Internet in a way that creates more stability and certainty for consumers and innovators. After all, this issue is squarely in our jurisdiction.
"Today, in contrast to the FCC’s activities, our agenda is characterized by bipartisanship.
"I am especially glad that we will be taking up S.304, the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, which Ranking Member Nelson and I reintroduced this Congress.
"Our bill seeks to incentivize whistleblowers from the automotive sector to voluntarily provide information to the U.S. Department of Transportation to help prevent deaths and serious injuries by identifying problems much earlier than would have otherwise been possible.
"We introduced this bill in response to the record number of auto recalls last year – more than 60 million of them, including those prompted by deaths and serious injuries linked to GM’s faulty ignition switch and Takata’s defective airbags.
"Simply put, rather than focusing only on fines imposed on automobile manufacturers after the fact, our bill provides an incentive for employees in the auto sector to come forward to report when such safety defects are not being fixed or reported to the Department of Transportation.
"I’m grateful to our colleagues, Senators Heller, McCaskill, Klobuchar, Ayotte, Moran, and Blumenthal, who have cosponsored the bill.
"Today, we will also be moving Senator Nelson’s Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act.
"It focuses on ensuring liquid nicotine containers have child-resistant packaging. We reported a similar version of this bill out of the Committee last year, and it has bipartisan support.
"Another noteworthy bill on our agenda is Senator Rubio’s Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. Senator Nelson and I, as well as Senators Ayotte, Blunt, Manchin, McCaskill, Schatz, Sullivan, and Wicker are cosponsors.
"Inconsistent Federal and state standards governing vessel discharge are a burden to efficient interstate commerce. This bill will streamline these regulations by establishing a scientifically based, national standard, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this bill passed by the full Senate.
"Also on today’s agenda is the FCC Consolidated Reporting Act, introduced by Senator Heller. This common sense legislation directs the FCC to produce a comprehensive “Communications Marketplace Report” every two years. This new report will combine elements of several existing Congressionally-mandated FCC reports, allowing those often redundant reports to be eliminated.
"In addition to eliminating wasted taxpayer resources, the bill will provide policymakers and the American public better information by accounting for the convergence of broadband across all delivery platforms and providing a holistic picture of the 21st Century communications marketplace.
"This bill is the product of bi-partisan negotiations. The House passed similar legislation unanimously this week, and I hope that we can follow suit and move forward in quick fashion here in the Senate.
"Indeed, several of the items on our agenda – including two severe weather bills and two TSA reform bills – are measures that have passed the House by large bipartisan votes, and which we should be able pass here in the Senate in short order.
"Finally, our agenda includes five well qualified nominees, all of whom were reported by the Committee in the last Congress, but failed to clear the Senate before we adjourned.
"These include the nomination of Christopher Hart, to be the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety
"Board, where he has served in an Acting capacity for nearly a year. I look forward to supporting his nomination.
"With that, I would turn to Senator Nelson for his opening remarks."
Ranking Member Bill Nelson
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have worked hard to put together a bipartisan, consensus-based package of bills and nominees for this mark-up.
And through your leadership and the hard work of staff on both sides, I think we achieved that goal.
All of the legislation on the mark-up today is important, but I would like to take a brief moment to discuss two items that are of particular interest to me.
The first is a piece of legislation I recently re-introduced – S. 142, the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015.
This is a common-sense bill that addresses a growing problem in the United States: children being poisoned by highly concentrated forms of liquid nicotine.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), in 2013 there were 1,543 calls to local poison control centers reporting exposure to liquid nicotine.
In 2014, that jumped to 3,831.
And just through January 31 of this year, local poison control centers have already reported 387 calls.
Late last year, the media also reported the tragic loss of a small child in Upstate New York to liquid nicotine poisoning.
My bill is simple: it requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue regulations requiring the manufacturers of liquid nicotine to “child proof” the liquid nicotine containers that are now sold in shops all over the United States.
We can stop these tragedies – and I appreciate the committee’s expedient consideration of this critical legislation.
The second bill I would like to highlight is S. 304, the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act.
Last November, I chaired a committee hearing on defective Takata airbags.
At that hearing, we heard that Takata may have known that its airbags were unsafe but did nothing to inform NHTSA or the public.
Sadly, this type of behavior isn’t new.
In 2009, it was Toyota that failed to report sudden-acceleration problems that resulted in serious injuries and deaths.
And last year, it was GM, which kept silent for over a decade on its deadly ignition switches.
This culture of ignoring or covering up serious safety defects has to change.
And, for that reason, I am very happy to be a cosponsor of this whistleblower legislation with Chairman Thune and several other members of this committee.
This bill would create a financial incentive for people to report dangerous defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
NHTSA is a small agency often lacking the resources and capabilities to do its job.
To that end, I hope our bill has the effect of incentivizing more safety-conscious eyes to be on lookout for potential tragedies.
In addition, I also hope it sends a message to manufacturers – like Takata – that they will not get away with hiding the truth from NHTSA, this committee, or the public.
Last week, NHTSA started fining Takata $14,000 a day for failing to timely provide critical information related to its investigation into the company’s defective airbags.
I would note that Takata has also failed to adequately respond to this committee’s request for critical information about the airbag defects.
The stonewalling has to stop before anyone else is injured or killed by these airbags.
And this legislation is one step in the right direction of ensuring that these defects are discovered and fixed as soon as possible.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for all of the courtesy that you and your staff have extended during this process.
I really think the bipartisan agenda we have here today is in the best traditions of this committee, and I look forward to advancing all of these items today.