April 25, 2018 2:30 PM, EDT

Senate Commerce Committee Approves Transportation Nominees Amid GOP Effort to Expedite Confirmation Process

Surface Transportation Board logoAndrew Harrer/Bloomberg Finance LP

The Senate Commerce Committee on April 25 easily approved two nominees to the Surface Transportation Board, yet it is unclear when a vote on their confirmations will be scheduled on the floor of the chamber.

That uncertainty is also true for other transportation nominees awaiting consideration in the chamber.

Republican senators intend to address the pace of the confirmation process for President Donald Trump’s nominees, amid pushback from top Democrats who argue improper vetting on the part of the administration is to blame for inaction on certain nominees.

Michelle Schultz and Patrick Fuchs

Michelle Schultz (left) and Patrick Fuchs have been nominated to serve on the Surface Transportation Board. (TT file photo)

A resolution Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) is offering would seek to reduce debate time for certain executive branch nominees from 30 hours to eight hours. Debate time for district court nominees would shrink from 30 hours to two hours. The senator argued the need for the resolution stems from the 139 executive, 57 district court and 10 circuit court nominations awaiting confirmation.

Democrats, meanwhile, continue to criticize the administration’s vetting of its nominees. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the chamber’s minority leader, speaking to reporters April 24, argued that officials within the administration “have to err on the side of caution” when reviewing a potential nominee’s background.

The vetting process has gained relevance after key members from Schumer’s caucus raised concerns about Dr. Ronny Jackson’s professional conduct during his tenure as the White House physician. Jackson is nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, and a Senate panel postponed his scheduled confirmation hearing. The chamber also is considering the nomination of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to lead the Department of State.

On April 25, the Commerce Committee easily advanced the nominations of Patrick Fuchs and Michelle Schultz to spots on the Surface Transportation Board. Their nominations will join those of transportation nominees awaiting a vote in the Senate. They include Bruce Landsberg for a seat on the National Transportation Safety Board, Diana Furchtgott-Roth to be an assistant secretary of transportation for research and technology, and Scott Mugno to be assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health.