The nominees’ questionnaires are available at www.commerce.senate.gov/nominations.
- Ronald L. Batory, of New Jersey, to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration
- Mark Buzby, of Virginia, to be Administrator of the Maritime Administration
- Peter B. Davidson, of Virginia, to be General Counsel of the Department of Commerce
- Karen Dunn Kelley, of Pennsylvania, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman John Thune
Good morning. We have four well-qualified nominees before our Committee today. Thank you Mr. Batory, Admiral Buzby, Ms. Kelley, and Mr. Davidson, as well as your families, for being here and for your willingness to serve.
Ronald Batory has been nominated to serve as the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) at the Department of Transportation (DOT). Mr. Batory has more than 45 years of experience in the railroad industry. Most recently, he served as President and COO of Consolidated Rail Corporation, better known as Conrail. Prior to that, he was President of the Belt Railway Company of Chicago.
If confirmed, Mr. Batory will serve as the principal advisor to Secretary Chao on railroad issues, and he will be responsible for developing freight and passenger rail policy, safety regulations and initiatives, and research and development activities. In recent years, this Committee and independent reports have found significant regulatory problems at the FRA, including inadequate analysis, overly prescriptive regulations, and unnecessary paperwork burdens. The next FRA Administrator must correct these deficiencies to facilitate private sector innovation and improve safety. I also expect the next Administrator to sharpen the agency’s focus, and improve interagency coordination, on grade crossing collisions and trespasser incidents, which together account for over 95 percent of rail-related fatalities.
Adm. Mark Buzby has been nominated to serve as Administrator of the Maritime Administration, otherwise known as MARAD, at the DOT. A retired Navy admiral whose career spanned 34 years, Adm. Buzby has served in a variety of important leadership roles both afloat and ashore. He also held key positions on the Navy Staff, the Joint Staff, and several fleet staffs. He is a recipient of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star, and numerous other personal and unit awards.
If confirmed, Adm. Buzby will advise and assist the Secretary of Transportation on commercial maritime matters, the U.S. maritime industry, and strategic sealift. The Administrator develops broad MARAD policies and manages the agency’s activities, particularly to ensure its compliance with statutory obligations and requirements. These responsibilities include oversight of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, which must continue to improve its accreditation status, repair external relationships, and ensure a safe and enriching environment for all cadets.
Karen Dunn Kelley has been nominated to serve as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs at the Department of Commerce. Ms. Kelley has more than thirty years of experience in the financial investment sector. The majority of her career has been with Invesco, a U.S.-based investment firm that manages more than $800 billion in assets worldwide, where Ms. Kelly currently serves as Senior Managing Director for Investments.
If confirmed, Ms. Kelley will lead the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), which provides timely economic analysis, disseminates national economic indicators, and serves as the administrator of the Department’s statistical programs through the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
ESA’s expert economists and analysts produce in-depth reports, fact sheets, and briefings on economic policy issues and current economic events. The Department of Commerce and White House policymakers, as well as Congress, rely on these tools to inform economic policy decisions, as do American businesses, and state and local governments.
And last, but not least, Peter Davidson has been nominated to serve as the General Counsel of the Department of Commerce. Mr. Davidson is well-known to this Committee, having served as Senior Vice President for Congressional Relations at Verizon Communications for more than a decade. Prior to that, Mr. Davidson served as General Counsel to the U.S. Trade Representative. He has also served in a number of other important roles in government and the private sector, including General Counsel and Policy Director to the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, and Attorney-Advisor in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, to name a few.
If confirmed, Mr. Davidson will serve as the chief legal officer of the Department of Commerce, and legal advisor to Secretary Ross. The General Counsel directs the operation of ten offices that report directly to him and also provides legal and policy direction to four additional legal offices that receive their funding and personnel allocations from their bureaus: the Patent and Trademark Office, the Economic Development Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
As I’ve noted, all four of these nominees are well-qualified for the positions to which they have been nominated, and I know that Secretaries Chao and Ross are especially happy about your nominations and eager to see you confirmed quickly. The Committee is doing its part to make that happen. Once again, I would like to thank you all for testifying today and for your willingness to serve the nation.
I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any opening remarks.
This is a critical time for our nation’s infrastructure, which is in desperate need of upgrades and repairs.
We have been talking about this issue for several years now.
Yet our roads, rails, ports and runways continue to languish without much-needed investments.
This not only jeopardizes the safety of our citizens, but the competitiveness of our economy as well.
We must do more to help our critical infrastructure projects.
And we have many good programs on the books – we simply have to fund them.
For example, TIGER grants help our communities to make much needed improvements in rail, port and local infrastructure projects in Florida and across the country.
Amtrak service provides vital long-distance service throughout Florida and around the country.
Amtrak funding can also help support the significant work that the panhandle of Florida has done to restore rail service on the Gulf Coast.
Just two years ago, we passed the FAST Act, which reaffirmed Amtrak’s status as a critical piece of our nation’s transportation network.
At a time when ridership is increasing and safety needs are high, we should be making investments in this important service.
The FAST Act also included funding to help improve the safety of our rail system, including funding to help support the implementation of positive train control.
We need real investment in our infrastructure to support these important programs and address critical safety concerns.
Admiral Buzby and Mr. Batory, I look forward to hearing your testimony on how we can move America’s infrastructure forward.
And Ms. Dunn Kelley and Mr. Davidson, let me extend my congratulations on your nominations to be the Under Secretary Economic Affairs and General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
As you know, the Department of Commerce oversees an expansive portfolio of 12 bureaus, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, (NTIA) and the Census Bureau. These bureaus and others contribute to a wide variety of sectors—science, weather, telecommunications, financial and trade.
We need leadership at the department that is data-driven and focused on delivering for the American people – not politics.
This means getting our hands around the current problems with the 2020 Census.
And ensuring that at agencies like NOAA, employees can stay focused on science and providing accurate, actionable information.
I look forward to hearing about both of your plans to contribute to stable leadership at the Department of Commerce.
Witness Panel 1
Ronald L. BatoryNominee to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration
Mark BuzbyNominee to be Administrator of the Maritime Administration
Peter B. DavidsonNominee to be General Counsel of the Department of Commerce
Karen Dunn KelleyNominee to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs