Sen. Cruz Leads Letters to Biden, Buttigieg Highlighting Administration’s Bias Toward Northeast on Rail Matters

April 19, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In letters sent today, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Republican committee members write that President Biden and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg are improperly favoring Northeastern states over the rest of the country with respect to Amtrak Board seats and a large taxpayer-funded rail grant program.

While Congress mandated that at least half of the eight appointed Amtrak board directors live outside of the Northeast Corridor, President Biden has resubmitted five nominees from states in the Northeast Corridor. Under federal law, the Northeast Corridor means Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

In their letter to President Biden, Sen. Cruz and his fellow lawmakers wrote:

“To bring your slate of Amtrak board nominees into compliance with the geographic diversity requirement in federal law, we urge you to withdraw one of your Democrat nominees from the Northeast Corridor and replace that person with a nominee from outside the Northeast Corridor. As you determine which nominee to withdraw, you must also comply with the political diversity requirement for Amtrak board members. Under federal law, no more than five of the Amtrak board members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate may be members of the same political party. All of your Amtrak board nominees are Democrats, except for former Assistant Secretary of Transportation Joel Szabat, who is a Republican from Maryland. Given the statutory requirement for political diversity on Amtrak’s Board of Directors, Mr. Szabat’s nomination should not be withdrawn.

“In our view, the Senate Commerce Committee should not take action on any of your Democrat Amtrak nominees until you have brought your slate of nominees into compliance with federal law by withdrawing one of the Democrat nominees from the Northeast Corridor. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

Signers of the letter include: Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), JD Vance (R-Ohio), and Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.).

Read the full text of the letter HERE.

In their letter to Secretary Buttigieg, Sen. Cruz and fellow lawmakers highlight how the Biden administration put the interests of the Northeast Corridor ahead of the rest of the country with a particular grant program. In December 2022, the Federal Railroad Administration issued notices of funding opportunity for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail (Fed State) grant program, which received $36 billion in funding from the 2021 infrastructure law. These notices predetermined that the maximum amount will be spent on the Northeast Corridor while only the minimum required amount will be spent in the rest of the country (42 states), depriving those 42 states of the chance to compete for more than $7 billion overall. The letter requests that the agency instead advertise the full range of amounts that could be awarded, then fairly evaluate applications from the Northeast and those from the rest of the country.

Sen. Cruz is also seeking a commitment from the Biden administration that states outside the Northeast will have “the opportunity to compete for the Fed-State and other discretionary grant programs administered by the Department of Transportation to the fullest extent consistent with the law.”

Signers of this letter include: Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), JD Vance (R-Ohio), and Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.).

Read the full text of the letter HERE.