Consideration of nominees for top level roles in the Trump administration is among the priorities for the U.S. Senate during its brief post-election session, the chamber’s leader said Nov. 27.
Speaking to reporters at his first press availability on Capitol Hill since lawmakers returned to Washington from the Thanksgiving recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said: “We have to deal with the following things over the next three weeks: nominations, year-end funding, the Saudi-Yemen issue.”
McConnell on Nov. 27 scheduled floor consideration for nominees at the departments of Agriculture and Commerce, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and to serve federal judgeships.
We’ll continue to make nominations a top priority, as we have this entire Congress. The nominees we’ll consider this week are highly regarded and well equipped for public service. I look forward to confirming each of them without further undue delay.— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) November 26, 2018
However, the leader did not specify which, if any, transportation nominees would be considered during the lame-duck session, which is expected to adjourn by mid-December. It is possible for the chamber to take up several transportation nominations prior to Congress’ adjournment, a senior Republican aide told Transport Topics.
Funding for several federal agencies will expire Dec. 7. And, U.S. military officials have been monitoring a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Individuals picked to fill senior roles in different capacities at the U.S. Department of Transportation who are awaiting votes on their nominations include Heidi King, to become administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
King is NHTSA’s top official as its deputy administrator, managing the agency’s operations. The Commerce Committee, which oversees freight transportation policy, reported her nomination to the full Senate on a party-line vote in June.
King’s federal government experience includes stints as the regulatory policy analyst at the Office of Management and Budget, and she was chief economist on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Outside of government, she worked for Pfizer Inc. and General Electric, according to background she provided the committee.
In a questionnaire ahead of the vote, King explained for the Commerce Committee: “Rapidly changing technology requires that NHTSA assure safety while remaining in step with the changing technology, including driverless car technology.”
Several Democrats, including Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, opposed her nomination in committee. Markey brought up carbon emissions standards and told his colleagues: “I am very concerned that if confirmed … as the administrator of the National Highway Safety Administration, Ms. King would not only fail to put the brakes on this administration’s rollback of these critical standards, but will hit the gas.”
Other transportation nominees awaiting Senate action include Thelma Drake to become administrator of the Federal Transit Administration and Martin Oberman, Patrick Fuchs and Michelle Schultz to be members of the Surface Transportation Board.
Additionally, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, the nominee for assistant secretary of transportation for research and technology, is awaiting a vote. Her experience includes serving as chief economist at the Department of Labor, chief of staff of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, deputy executive director of the Domestic Policy Council and junior staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisers, according to background the White House provided. She has written dozens of columns, such as one published by The Washington Examiner in 2011 titled, “End the highway trust fund.”
Furchtgott-Roth, whose nomination was approved by the Commerce Committee in January, indicated in a questionnaire for senators that a challenge with the assistant secretary position would be “making sure that the quality of the research is as high as possible.”
She went on, “This is particularly difficult given the rapidly changing technology, such as autonomous vehicles and drones.”