Witnesses (links to candidate questionnaires):
• Steven Gill Bradbury, of Virginia, to be General Counsel of the Department of Transportation
• Elizabeth Erin Walsh, of the District of Columbia, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service
Wednesday, June 28 2017
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
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Chairman John Thune
Good morning. Thank you Mr. Bradbury and Ms. Walsh for being here. We have two well-qualified nominees before our Committee today.
Steven Bradbury has been nominated to serve as the General Counsel at the Department of Transportation. Mr. Bradbury is currently a litigation partner at Dechert [DECK-ert] here in Washington, D.C. and his practice focuses on regulatory enforcement and investigations, rulemakings, and judicial review of agency actions, as well as appellate cases, and antitrust matters. From 2005 to 2009, Mr. Bradbury headed the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, the office that provides essential legal advice to the President and the heads of executive departments and agencies. In that role, he received the Edmund J. Randolph Award and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, among other awards. Before serving in the Justice Department, Mr. Bradbury was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis for ten years. He clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court and for Judge James L. Buckley on the D.C. Circuit. Mr. Bradbury graduated magna cum laude from Michigan Law School and received his B.A. from Stanford University.
If confirmed, Mr. Bradbury will serve as the Chief Legal Officer of the Department of Transportation, with final authority on questions of law. The General Counsel is the legal advisor to the Secretary and is responsible for the supervision, coordination, and review of the legal work of the almost 500 lawyers throughout the Department. The General Counsel is also responsible for the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement, and coordinates the Department's legislative efforts, regulatory program, and involvement in legal proceedings before other agencies, as well as various operational and international legal matters.
Elizabeth Walsh has been nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary and Director General of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service, within the Department of Commerce. She currently serves as a Senior Advisor to Secretary Wilbur Ross. Before that, she served as a Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director for Presidential Personnel. She has had an extensive career in the international arena in both the private and public sectors. Ms. Walsh has served more than 12 years in the Federal Government, including at the Department of State, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and the Department of Energy. She also worked at the United Nations, serving 18 months in Bosnia, during the war. At the Department of State, Ms. Walsh was a senior advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and International Relations from Georgetown University and a Master of Science degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
If confirmed, Ms. Walsh will lead the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. U.S. Commercial Service trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 countries help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increase their sales to new global markets. As part of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, the Commercial Service helps American firms and workers navigate the often complicated and unpredictable waters of foreign trade, so that U.S. firms’ sales abroad help to support jobs here in the United States.
Both nominees have consistently proven their willingness to address the challenges facing our nation. I would like to thank you both for testifying today and for your willingness to continue your service to the country.
I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any opening remarks.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this hearing to consider the nominations of Ms. Walsh and Mr. Bradbury.
The Department of Transportation’s most important job is the regulation and oversight of safety.
And the job never stops.
Just last night, an Amtrak train fatally struck two CSX employees who were working on a nearby track.
This is tragic. This kind of accident happens far too often and we need to do more to prevent them.
The Department also has a critical safety role in an issue that is important to many of my constituents: the continuing Takata airbag mess.
Back in 2014, I chaired the first congressional hearing on the defective airbag failures.
At that hearing, we heard from a victim, Air Force Lieutenant Stephanie Erdman, who was seriously injured and almost lost an eye when a Takata airbag exploded after a minor accident in the Florida Panhandle.
And we also heard from a senior Takata executive who stonewalled and failed to acknowledge the severity of the problem.
And in a series of reports, we uncovered evidence that the company routinely manipulated data about the safety of its airbags.
Takata’s actions were, quite frankly, shameful and showed a lack of regard for human safety.
And as a result, the Department of Justice charged Takata with criminal violations for wire fraud and conspiracy concerning the defective airbag inflators.
Because of all this, you would think that we would finally be making some serious progress on the Takata recalls.
Sadly, that is not the case.
Earlier this month, I released new statistics showing that two thirds of the over 46 million recalled Takata airbag inflators nationwide have not yet been repaired.
Even more troubling is that 16 people have died and more than 180 people worldwide have been injured because of these airbags.
This is a crisis – and we need leadership to get these recalls back on track. This is especially true in light of Takata’s announcement that it will enter into bankruptcy – making it almost certain the company will not be able to pay for all the replacement airbags needed to fix this mess or adequately compensate all the victims that have been or will be injured.
So, this leads me to your nomination, Mr. Bradbury.
You obviously know a lot about this issue because you represented Takata in regulatory and congressional investigations for more than two years.
This fact deeply troubles me. And, it’s why I believe, as the department’s general counsel, you must be free of any conflicts that could be perceived as the fox guarding the henhouse.
As a result, I wrote to you last week and urged you, if confirmed, to recuse yourself from all matters involving Takata for your entire term as the department’s general counsel.
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to ask that my letter to Mr. Bradbury and his response be entered in the record.
Mr. Bradbury, I want to thank you for your prompt response and your written commitment to recuse yourself from Takata recall related matters. However, I plan to seek clarification from you during my questioning on whether you would seek or accept any waivers that would allow you to participate in any Takata related matters.
Meantime, Mr. Bradbury and Ms. Walsh, I look forward to hearing from both of you today.
Steven Gill BradburyNominee for General CounselU.S. Department of Transportation
Elizabeth Erin WalshNominee to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the United States and Foreign Commercial ServiceU.S. Department of Commerce