U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a nominations hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 6, 2020. The hearing will consider presidential nominations to the Department of Transportation, Surface Transportation Board, and Amtrak Board of Directors.
Click here for additional information on nominees.
- Mr. Eric Soskin, of Virginia, to be Inspector General, Department of Transportation
- Mr. Robert Primus, of New Jersey, to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board
- Ms. Sarah Feinberg, of West Virginia, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors
- Mr. Chris Koos, of Illinois, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors
*Witness list subject to change
Thursday, August 6, 2020
Full Committee Hearing
This hearing will take place in the Russell Senate Office Building 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
*In order to maintain physical distancing as advised by the Office of the Attending Physician, seating for credentialed press will be limited throughout the course of the hearing. Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream.
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
Opening Statement at Nominations Hearing
Witnesses: Mr. Eric Soskin, of Virginia, to be Inspector General, Department of Transportation
Mr. Robert Primus, of New Jersey, to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board
Ms. Sarah Feinberg, of West Virginia, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors
Mr. Chris Koos, of Illinois, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors
August 6, 2020
CANTWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Today we have nominees for three agencies with extremely important transportation missions. First is the Amtrak Board of Directors. Amtrak faces a series of critical challenges in the near future as we deal with the severe decline in travel as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. In an effort to address these challenges, Amtrak's management has proposed severe cuts in service, including reducing long distance train to three days a week and deep staffing reductions. I'm very concerned that these cuts may significantly harm communities served by Amtrak and threaten the long term viability of our national rail network. I hope that my colleagues will step up in this next COVID package and make sure that there is support for Amtrak, the communities, and the workforce.
Amtrak also needs leadership, and I'm pleased that we have two excellent nominees for the Amtrak Board of Directors here. Sarah Feinberg served as the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration as the Chair mentioned from 2015 to 2017 and in her current role as president of New York City Transit. So during her time at the FRA, she also sat on the Amtrak board and is well aware of the challenges facing Amtrak and the importance of rail service to communities across the nation.
We're also joined by Chris Koos, the mayor of Normal, Illinois. Mr. Koos’ city is served by two Amtrak routes including one long distance line, the Texas Eagle, so he's very familiar with Amtrak's operations and keenly aware of the value it provides to small and mid--town--mid-sized communities.
We're joined by Robert Primus who was nominated to serve as a member of the Surface Transportation Board. The STB plays a very important role in resolving railroad rate and service disputes as well as reviewing railroad mergers and restructuring activities. So Mr. Primus has had a long career as a congressional staffer, including working on these activities in the House Transportation Infrastructure, so I look forward to hearing his views on these very important issues.
And finally we have the nomination of Eric Soskin to be the Inspector General at the US Department of Transportation. The Inspector General of DOT plays a key role in not only preventing waste, fraud and abuse, but also ensuring that the agency carries out its core safety mission, or our nation's transportation network.
One area the IG is currently investigating is the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification of the 737 Max and the FAA’s subsequent response to two crashes involved in the aircraft. I would mention, Mr. Chairman, I saw yesterday a fine by the FAA on South Carolina for intimidation of employees who were part of the FAA certification process, the very issue that we try to fix in our legislation that we've worked on together. And the very legislation that when the administrator was before the committee, basically told us he didn't agree that there were any problems, and yet now we see them issuing fines.
So clearly there is a problem, and clearly there is intimidation and we want an independent workforce who is going to basically let the engineers be engineers. Let them do the work and not have fear of intimidation or reparation. So anyway, I looked at that interesting development yesterday, Mr. Chairman and looking forward to getting back to those issues.
So, the Inspector General Act of 17--1978 specifically states the IG should be appointed without regard to political affiliation and solely based on integrity and demonstrated ability and accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, and public administration or investigation. So Mr. Soskin, I will be asking you questions because I am concerned that I want to know that you have the experience that lines up with this important position that oversees so many infrastructure jobs in the United States. And I definitely plan to ask you a question.
This is this--the White House expressed its intent to nominate Mr. Soskin on May 15. This is the same day that the former Acting Inspector General Mitch Behm, a longtime employee of the DOT Inspector’s Office was removed by the President, so I'm concerned about the timing of these things. So I hope we can spend some time addressing those concerns today. So thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this hearing and look forward to hearing from the nominees.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Eric Soskinto be Inspector GeneralDepartment of Transportation
Mr. Robert Primusto be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board
Ms. Chris Koosto be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors
Ms. Sarah Feinbergto be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors