At Markup to Advance Key Nominees, Sen. Cruz Says Amtrak Noms’ Fate Depends on DOT Cooperation with CST GOP Acela Probe

October 18, 2023

Expresses concerns with increased costs to taxpayers of new Acela train delays 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In his opening statement at today’s full Senate Commerce Committee markup to consider nominations for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Amtrak Board of Directors, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), along with Coast Guard promotions, Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) discussed his concerns with Amtrak’s purchase of new Acela trains and President Biden’s failure to comply with geographic diversity requirements for the Amtrak Board of Director nominees.

Ranking Member Cruz also highlighted FAA administrator nominee Mike Whitaker’s extensive qualifications, noted frustration with the administration’s failure to nominate a qualified nominee for 18 months, outlined his support for FTC nominees Andrew Ferguson, Melissa Holyoak, and current commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, and voiced his support for CPSC nominee Doug Dziak.

Sen. Cruz’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Today the Committee will consider nominations to key posts at the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, Amtrak, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, as well as the promotions of two Coast Guard officers.

I support the confirmation of Michael Whitaker to be the next FAA administrator. His extensive aviation experience makes him well-suited to lead our nation’s largest transportation safety agency and he has pledged to focus on aviation safety, the FAA’s primary responsibility.     

Mr. Whitaker’s confirmation will bring an end to what was an avoidable, eighteen-month gap in FAA leadership. It is unfortunate that the President took so long to heed my advice to nominate someone with aviation expertise. 

Hopefully, this Committee will soon resume consideration of the FAA reauthorization so that—once confirmed—Mr. Whitaker will have the tools necessary to do his job. My Republican colleagues and I stand ready to hold amendment votes and mark up our bill to avert another extension.

Today the Committee will also consider the nominations of Andrew Ferguson, Melissa Holyoak, and current commissioner Rebecca Slaughter to the FTC—three well qualified nominees who I support.  

With Ms. Holyoak’s and Mr. Ferguson’s confirmations, the FTC will be bipartisan once again. When I was at the FTC, bipartisanship was a defining characteristic of the agency and one of the reasons it was often successful. Sadly, FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan has abandoned that legacy in favor of a partisan, legally suspect agenda, decimating employee morale in the process. Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Holyoak will serve as much-needed checks on Chairwoman Khan.  

This Committee too has an important constitutional responsibility to serve as a check on the FTC, one that it is not fulfilling. We have not had a hearing with Chairwoman Khan in 910 days. 

Madam Chairwoman, Republicans agreed to quickly move and process Mr. Whitaker’s nomination to the FAA. As a matter of comity, we think it is appropriate that you agree to hold an FTC oversight hearing with Chairwoman Khan this year. 

The FTC continues to take an unreasonably expansive view of its authorities under Chairwoman Khan’s leadership that this Committee must ask her about. She is also not responding adequately to my oversight letters—I’ve sent her seven this year and she has only provided a complete response to one of them.

In addition to the FAA and FTC nominees, the Committee will consider three nominations to Amtrak’s board of directors. Amtrak receives billions in federal subsidies, so it needs board members who will ask tough questions to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly and lawfully. 

One important area of inquiry for the Board should be the delay in Amtrak’s acquisition of new high-speed Acela trainsets and resulting cost increases. I have been investigating this matter and sent letters to both Amtrak and the Department of Transportation. Amtrak has cooperated. D.O.T. has just begun cooperating.

One other issue is that President Biden’s current slate of nominees does not comply with the statutory requirement that no more than four of the eight board members be from a state along the Northeast Corridor, a fact I’ve raised since April. Last week, the President promised to bring his slate into compliance by substituting someone from outside the Northeast Corridor for one of the current Democrat nominees.

Based on that assurance and Amtrak’s good faith cooperation with my investigation, I will support moving the nominees out of Committee today. However, whether I support floor consideration of the Democrat nominees will be up to President Biden and D.O.T. The President must follow through on his promise. And D.O.T. and Amtrak must continue cooperating with my investigation.

Last, I want to turn to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Doug Dziak?is experienced in consumer product safety matters, has shown an ability to work in a bipartisan fashion to protect American consumers, and is well qualified to serve as a CPSC commissioner.

I look forward to his confirmation, as well as the confirmation of the other seven nominees and the two Coast Guard promotions pending before the Committee today.