11:00 AM Hart Senate Office Building 216
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. in Hart 216 to consider the following presidential nominations.
Click here for additional information on nominees.
1. Nomination of Leon A. Westmoreland, of Georgia, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors for a term of five years
2. Nomination of Barry Lee Myers, of Pennsylvania, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
3. Nomination of Diana Furchtgott-Roth, of Maryland, to be an Assistant Secretary of Transportation
4. Nomination of Brendan Carr, of Virginia, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission for a term of five years from July 1, 2018
5. Nomination of Ann Marie Buerkle, to be Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and to be a Commissioner of the CPSC for a term of seven years
6. Nomination of James Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
7. Nomination of Dana Baiocco, of Ohio, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for a term of seven years from October 27, 2017
*Agenda subject to change
Executive Session Details:
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Full Committee Markup
Senate Hart Building 216
Results of the markup can be found here.
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Chairman John Thune
Good morning. Thank you all for being here for our first executive session of 2018. I appreciate everyone’s attendance at today’s markup, which is basically a housekeeping exercise as we consider seven nominees for the second time this Congress.
Each of the nominees we are considering today has previously been reported favorably out of Committee, several of them quite recently.
For instance, Barry Myers, nominated to be NOAA Administrator, was reported favorably by the Committee just last month. Similarly, the nomination of James Bridenstine to lead NASA and the appointments of Dana Baiocco to CPSC, Diana Furchtgott-Roth to DOT, and Lynn Westmoreland to the Amtrak Board of Directors were all favorably reported in November.
Nonetheless, some have seen fit to engage in delay tactics and we must once again vote to report these nominations in order for them to be available for consideration by the full Senate.
To be clear, each nominee we will consider today has been thoroughly vetted and had a hearing before this Committee.
In fact, two of the nominees, Brendan Carr and Ann Marie Buerkle, are re-nominations who have previously been confirmed, by voice vote, by the full Senate.
And all of these nominees are well qualified. Even a quick rundown of the nominees’ extensive resumes is quite impressive –
Leon Westmoreland, nominated to join the Amtrak Board of Directors, is a former Congressman and House T&I member with a strong record of support for infrastructure and transportation;
Barry Lee Myers, the President’s pick to head NOAA, has dedicated his entire career to the weather forecasting enterprise, running Accuweather;
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, has had a distinguished academic career, which will serve her well as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Research;
Brendan Carr, a long serving attorney at the FCC and current Commissioner who is being re-nominated to a full term;
Ann Marie Buerkle, a former Member of Congress who has a strong record at the CPSC and is currently serving as Acting Chairman, is being nominated to be Chairman and for another term;
James Bridenstine, a current member of Congress who has been a leader on space policy, as well as a pilot and a decorated veteran, has been tapped to be NASA Administrator; and
Dana Baiocco, nominated to be a CPSC Commissioner, has a distinguished legal career that has focused on consumer product and safety issues.
It is my hope that this will be the final time this Committee must consider these nominees and that the Senate will act on their nominations as soon as possible. The agencies, commissions, and boards to which they have been nominated would be well served by having these leaders in place early this year.
With that, I will turn to Senator Nelson for any opening remarks.
Mr. Chairman, I won’t take much time, but I think it’s important to highlight continued concerns about a few of these nominees.
The first is the nomination of Congressman Jim Bridenstine to serve as NASA administrator. The facts on this nomination have not changed: Congressman Bridenstine has no experience managing a large organization or program, no background in science or engineering, and a history of political divisiveness.
NASA is facing one of the most challenging periods in its history. With the lives of astronauts and the very future of the space program on the line, now more than ever, the agency needs a unifying and qualified space professional at the helm.
Robert Lightfoot is doing an outstanding job running the agency and the agency is humming along with no signs of slowing down. And I can confirm, having been with the president at the White House when he signed his space policy directive last month, that the administration isn’t slowing their plans for NASA either. Indeed, they are moving forward under Lightfoot’s very capable leadership.
It appears that the votes aren’t there to confirm Congressman Bridenstine. It is my hope that, sooner rather than later, we can move on to a qualified candidate who could quickly be confirmed with broad support from both sides of the aisle, as has traditionally been the case for the NASA administrator.
The other nominee I feel compelled to mention is Barry Myers to serve as NOAA’s administrator. Mr. Myers has undoubtedly been very successful running AccuWeather.
But that is also the very crux of the problem with Mr. Myers’ nomination: the fact that he will be running an agency that directly impacts a family business.
Nothing will prevent Mr. Myers from buying back his share of the family business when he leaves government.
The former director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, said these circumstances create “a significant unaddressed and largely unregulated conflict of interest.”
So, I asked Mr. Myers to put these concerns to rest by agreeing to recuse himself from all NOAA matters that he knows will directly impact the fortunes of AccuWeather.
Mr. Myers declined to sign this supplemental agreement.
Overall, it is unfortunate that we are here considering this same group of folks again. I hope that in the future, the administration will work with us to find nominees that can unify us and provide the leadership these agencies need.