Biden Transportation Nominees Face Added Confirmation Hiccups

  • White House must renominate transportation officials
  • GOP senator slowed confirmations over supply chain demand

At least a half-dozen of President Joe Biden’s picks for transportation leadership roles will need to be nominated again in the new year, further delaying appointments to key positions amid supply chain concerns and implementation of a major infrastructure law.

Officials nominated to manage the Transportation Department’s finances and oversee maritime shipping and highway safety are among those on a list of nominees who weren’t allowed to remain in pending status when the Senate left for its holiday recess.

If the White House wants to stick with its current picks, it will need to nominate them anew when the Senate returns in January. An aide for the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee said the nominees who have gone through committee would need to be approved again, but the panel doesn’t expect to hold another round of hearings for them.

Nominees on the list include Max Vekich to be a commissioner at the Federal Maritime Commission, Steven Cliff to be administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Ann Phillips to head the Maritime Administration. Other Transportation Department nominees on the list are Victoria Wassmer, who is nominated to be chief financial officer, as well as Mohsin Syed, Chris Coes, and Robert Hampshire to be assistant secretaries of transportation.

GOP Stalls Nominees

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has been stalling the nominations of Transportation and Commerce Department nominees until the commerce panel convenes a hearing with administration officials on supply chain bottlenecks.

Democrats took to the Senate floor last week to push Republicans to stop slowing Biden nominees for positions connected to the supply chain and the recently enacted infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58).

“It’s ridiculous that we’re in this position,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Commerce Committee, said on the floor last week. “Ridiculous that there are dozens of nominees for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Commerce, that the majority of our colleagues support, but they’re being held up by one or two people who don’t want to see them move through the process.”

At least one nominee won’t return: Meera Joshi, who Biden chose to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in April, is taking a position in the New York City mayoral office.

NYC Job Lures Away Key Biden Nominee for Remedying Supply Chain

“It’s unfortunate that Americans are losing the help of talented public servants because some Senate Republicans have been slowing the confirmation of non-controversial nominees who would otherwise have bipartisan support,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Chris Meagher.

The administration could choose to forgo renominating officials who may face challenges being confirmed. The committee didn’t hold a scheduled vote on Hampshire, the nominee to be assistant secretary for research and technology at the Transportation Department, at a markup in August. At a nomination hearing in June, ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) raised concerns about Hampshire’s failure to file federal, state, and local tax returns “in a timely manner.”

Amit Bose, nominated to lead the Federal Railroad Administration and awaiting a floor vote, isn’t on the list of expiring nominations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at lbyington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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