Chairman Rockefeller's Remarks on Today's Nominations Hearing

July 29, 2009

Good Afternoon, I want to welcome everyone to our hearing on five very important nominations. I am proud of the progress we have made in recent months, and I want to thank my colleagues for working swiftly to get these talented public servants where they belong—on the job for the American people.

It is always very gratifying when an individual who has served on the Commerce Committee answers the call of our President to further his or her public service.
With Mr. Chris Bertram, the President’s nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and Chief Financial Officer at the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), it is bittersweet. He has been such a valuable resource to our Committee, a dedicated professional committed to achieving bipartisan compromise and enacting meaningful legislation.
Chris has a long history of public service in the transportation industry, not just with the Senate Commerce Committee, but the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and as the Chief Financial Officer of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
I believe he will continue to pursue sensible and effective solutions to our mounting transportation infrastructure needs if confirmed.
Mr. Daniel Elliott, is the President’s nominee to serve on and lead the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the agency tasked with overseeing the economic regulation of the railroad industry.  Mr. Elliott comes to the Board from the United Transportation Union where he has served as Associate General Counsel since 1993.
As you are well aware, I have had major concerns about the railroads’ treatment of captive railroad shippers—both with regard to the rates they charge and the service they provide.  This has been a particular concern in West Virginia, where certain companies can’t stay competitive due to exorbitant rates.
The STB is supposed to be a neutral venue for captive shippers to seek relief when they have been wronged by the railroads, but I am concerned about the agency’s capacity to play that role.
As I work with Senators Hutchison, Lautenberg, and Thune to reauthorize the STB for the first time since it was created in 1996, we are evaluating the agency from top to bottom.
In your capacity on the STB, I will expect you to apply the law equitably and to balance the needs of both the shippers and the railroads.
Ms. Susan Kurland, the President’s nominee to be Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Aviation and International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, brings critical experience as Director of the Airports Division at the FAA and extensive work with the aviation industry in the private sector.
As you are aware, this Committee marked up the FAA Reauthorization Bill and as it comes before the full Senate we will have to consider a number of difficult provisions that have implications for the global air transportation network.
I hope you will discuss your thoughts on international alliances and the need for the DOT to consider those applications thoughtfully.
Mr. Christopher Hart, the President’s nominee to be a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), has a long history at the FAA and was a member of the NTSB from 1990 to 1993.
I look forward to hearing how you believe we can make sure the proper agencies and industries follow through on the Board’s recommendations and other initiatives.
Ms. Patricia Cahill, the President’s nominee to be to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), currently serves as General Manager of a public radio station that boasts more than 190,000 listeners weekly.
As a CPB Board Member, you will take on a tremendous public trust at a transformative time for broadcast media.
It will be your job to make sure public broadcasting evolves as media consumption moves beyond traditional radio and television.  It is a tough task, especially in difficult financial times, but one vitally important to our society.
Thank you to all of our nominees for your continued service. I look forward to your speedy confirmations so you can get right to work.