Thune Statement on Secretary of Transportation Confirmation Hearing

May 22, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, delivered the following prepared remarks at today’s Secretary of Transportation confirmation hearing for Anthony R. Foxx:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this hearing today.

This hearing gives our Committee the opportunity to perform one of the most important Constitutional responsibilities provided to members of the U.S. Senate: the power to give advice and consent on the President’s executive and judicial nominees.

Today we will consider Mayor Anthony Foxx to be the 17th Secretary of Transportation. Established in 1967, the Department of Transportation (DOT) employs approximately 53,000 full time employees and has over $72 billion in budget authority. 

If confirmed, Mayor Foxx, not only will you be responsible for overseeing this important Agency, but you will also be the principal advisor to the president on all matters relating to transportation.

I know most of the individuals here today understand what an important position this is for our country, but every American is directly affected by our nation’s transportation systems – including through personal and business travel, employment, the interstate movement of the products we grow, manufacture, and purchase, and their impact on the overall health of the economy. 

Specifically, over 12 million Americans are employed in the transportation labor force. That works out to just over nine percent of the nation’s entire non-agriculture workforce.

The average American family spends roughly 17 percent of their total budget on transportation related costs.

And $1.6 trillion, or almost 10 percent, of the U.S. gross domestic product is comprised of transportation-related goods and services. 

Even a rural state like my home state of South Dakota is directly impacted by the decisions made by the Secretary of Transportation. For instance, the regulations produced by the DOT have a direct impact on the ability of Daktronics, an industry leader in electronic scoreboards and display systems located in Brookings, South Dakota, to produce and sell dynamic message signs used on freeways and roadways to provide instructions, travel times, and road conditions to motorists.

DOT components like the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Highway Administration play an important role in maintaining a robust national airspace and highway system to transport agriculture goods to market, enable tourists to visit South Dakota’s many historic sites like Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the Badlands, or enjoy our world-class pheasant hunting.  

And regulations placed on truck safety by another DOT agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, impact the more than 20,000 individuals in South Dakota employed by the trucking industry.  

The Secretary’s decisions also shape the role the Federal Railroad Administration plays in ensuring our freight rail lines are safe, so South Dakota’s agriculture goods can make it to market quickly and efficiently. 

The position you are nominated for is certainly an important one, and to be successful, the Administration and Congress will need to work together to address the numerous transportation challenges we face ahead.

Mayor Foxx, I look forward to hearing your testimony today and learning more about you and your qualifications to be the next Secretary of Transportation.