UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--EXECUTIVE CALENDAR NO. 261
(Senate - December 21, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 209 (Thursday, December 21, 2017)]
[Pages S8229-S8230]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




         UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--EXECUTIVE CALENDAR NO. 261

  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I rise to voice my strong support for the 
nomination of Ronald Batory to be the Administrator of the Federal 
Railroad Administration at the Department of Transportation and to 
express my deep frustration that this noncontroversial, highly 
qualified nominee has been languishing in the Senate for over 4 months 
due to objections by a handful of Democrats over a parochial issue 
entirely unrelated to the nominee's qualifications.
  The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing on 
his nomination on July 26, 2017, and reported his nomination favorably 
out of committee with a unanimous voice vote on August 2, 2017. At that 
time, not a single Senator on the committee, Republican or Democrat, 
expressed any doubt about Mr. Batory's extensive expertise on rail 
safety issues.
  Mr. Batory has over 45 years of experience in the railroad industry, 
in both management and operational positions, and he is a respected 
leader in driving organizational change and, most importantly, in 
advancing safety improvements. In fact, Railway Age called him 
noncontroversial and said: ``He is the best-qualified person to be the 
Federal Railroad Administrator in a very long time, perhaps in the 
agency's history.''
  Yet, despite his unanimous approval from the committee, he has been 
blocked from assuming his leadership duties at this important safety 
regulatory agency. The FRA has critical safety decisions to make on a 
daily basis, and the agency needs strong strategic direction and 
management on time-sensitive safety issues. A senior adviser, which is 
Mr. Batory's current role at the DOT, does not have the same legal 
authority or ability to lead an agency as does a Senate-confirmed 
Administrator.
  It is time to stop hamstringing Mr. Batory and get him confirmed so 
he can operate at full capacity. Unfortunately, it appears that we will 
not be able to do that without, once again, engaging in the cloture 
process on a noncontroversial nominee. This takes up valuable floor 
time that could be spent on other priorities. Yet it will, undoubtedly, 
still lead to his being confirmed by a large, bipartisan majority of 
the Senate. This pattern of obstruction--burning up a week or more of 
time to confirm two or three nominees who end up with overwhelming 
cloture and confirmation votes--must end.
  The Batory nomination is also significant for another reason. Earlier 
this week, we saw the terrible tragedy of the Amtrak Cascades 501 
derailment in Washington. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with 
all of those affected, especially during this holiday season. As the 
NTSB continues its ongoing investigation, we will learn more about the 
causes of this derailment and the measures that might have prevented 
it.
  To be clear, the tragic events of this week were not caused by a 
vacancy at the helm of the FRA, but the Senate must act now to install 
a leader at this agency to advance any safety solutions and oversight 
found to be needed as a result of the accident.
  To date, much of the discussion surrounding this accident has been 
focused on positive train control or what we call PTC. While it is 
still early to know what, if any, impact PTC would have had on this 
accident, I could not agree more with the Democratic leader who earlier 
this week said: ``We need Positive Train Control.'' He went on to say: 
``The Federal Department of Transportation is not pushing Federal PTC 
hard enough.''
  If he truly believes the DOT needs to do more, why is he, along with 
a few of his colleagues, standing in the way of Mr. Batory's 
nomination? After all, Congress has tasked the FRA Administrator with 
providing the oversight and strong push that will be needed to ensure 
railroads meet next year's December 31, 2018, deadline for full PTC 
installation and training.
  Make no mistake, a strong push is what many passenger railroads need. 
According to the FRA's latest quarterly progress report for passenger 
railroads, only 50 percent of locomotives are equipped and PTC 
operable; 64 percent of required PTC radio towers are installed; and 
only 24 percent of required route miles are in operation.
  The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee expects to 
continue to play its role in conducting strong oversight of PTC 
implementation, including holding a hearing in 2018. However, what I do 
not expect the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to do is 
to grant any further change to the PTC deadline framework that is 
established in current law. That is why we need Mr. Batory. When 
finally confirmed, he will play a significant role in pushing 
expeditious and successful PTC implementation.
  This is not just the view of the Commerce, Science, and 
Transportation Committee, I might add, which, again, approved Mr. 
Batory, as I said earlier, unanimously, but also of the rail 
professionals who advance safety on the ground. The States for 
Passenger Rail Coalition, which consists of 25 State Departments of 
Transportation, wrote in July:

       The issues facing the railroad industry today are 
     significant, and it is vital that we have an experienced, 
     capable and dedicated leader like Mr. Batory, who is willing 
     to work with the states to make the improvements necessary to 
     build a national rail system with an emphasis on increasing 
     mobility and reliability, while enhancing safety and security 
     now, and in the years to come.
       Likewise, rail labor--representing conductors and 
     communication workers--and other industry groups urged the 
     Senate to proceed to Mr. Batory's nomination ``as soon as 
     possible,'' stressing ``the importance of having Mr. Batory's 
     expertise and leadership at the agency responsible for 
     railroad safety.''

  That letter was written in September. It is now December. There is no 
reason for this delay.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that both of these letters be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                                               September 15, 2017.
     Senator McConnell,
     Senate Majority Leader,
     Washington, DC.
     Senator Schumer,
     Senate Minority Leader,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Republican Leader McConnell and Democratic Leader 
     Schumer: As rail industry stakeholders, we write to support 
     the nomination of Ronald Batory for Federal

[[Page S8230]]

     Railroad Administrator. We urge the Senate to proceed to Mr. 
     Batory's nomination as soon as possible.
       Mr. Batory's nomination was announced in July, unanimously 
     approved and reported by the Senate Commerce Committee in 
     August, and now awaits action on the Senate floor. Mr. Batory 
     is eminently qualified to be FRA Administrator and we believe 
     he will have considerable bipartisan Member support once the 
     Senate turns to his nomination.
       We ask that his nomination be considered soon by the full 
     Senate, in light of the importance of having Mr. Batory's 
     expertise and leadership at the agency responsible for 
     railroad safety.
       Thank you for considering our views on this important 
     matter.
       Association of American Railroads (AAR); BNSF Railway; 
     Canadian National Railway; Canadian Pacific Railway; CSX 
     Transportation; Kansas City Southern Railroad; Norfolk 
     Southern Railway; Union Pacific Railroad; American Short Line 
     and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA); International 
     Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation 
     Workers (SMART); Transportation Communications Union/IAM.
       National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP); 
     National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association 
     (NRC); Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association 
     (REMSA); Railway Supply Institute (RSI); States for Passenger 
     Rail Coalition (SPRC); American Association of Private 
     Railroad Car Owners (AAPRCO); AECOM; GE Transportation; 
     Progress Rail Services; Siemens.
                                  ____

                                                    July 19, 2017.
     Hon. John Thune,
     Chairman, Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 
         U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
     Hon. Bill Nelson,
     Ranking Member, Committee on Commerce, Science and 
         Transportation, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
       Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson: On behalf of 
     the States for Passenger Rail Coalition, Inc (SPRC), I write 
     in support of the confirmation of Ronald L. Batory as 
     Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) 
     for the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).
       The SPRC's mission is to promote the research, development, 
     implementation, operation, sustainability, and expansion of 
     publicly supported intercity passenger rail services. On 
     behalf of its membership representing 25 state departments of 
     transportation and passenger rail authorities, SPRC advocates 
     for ongoing federal funding and programmatic support for 
     intercity passenger rail initiatives, including efforts to 
     improve safety on our nations rail system and at highway-rail 
     at-grade crossings.
       We are impressed with Mr. Batory's extensive experience in 
     the railroad industry and appreciate his plan to improve 
     communications within the agency, and we encourage him to 
     collaborate closely with public and private stakeholders to 
     achieve policy goals. We are especially encouraged by his 
     reputation as a good listener with a sound analytical 
     approach We commend his affirmation of the need for the FRA 
     to move to performance-based rulemaking and fact-based policy 
     making. Focusing upon these two objectives will strengthen 
     the role of the states in promoting the development of a 
     safe, reliable and efficient vibrant national network of 
     freight and passenger rail services.
       We ask that the Committee act speedily to confirm Mr. 
     Batory. The issues facing the railroad industry today are 
     significant, and it is vital that we have an experienced, 
     capable and dedicated leader like Mr. Batory, who is willing 
     to work with the states to make the improvements necessary to 
     build a national rail system with an emphasis on increasing 
     mobility and reliability, while enhancing safety and security 
     now, and in the years to come.
           Sincerely,
                                       Paul C. Worley, CPM, Chair,
                         States for Passenger Rail Coalition, Inc.

  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, we have had an immensely qualified leader, 
Ronald Batory, ready to lead an important safety agency for over 4 
months. The time for playing political games with the leadership of 
this railroad safety agency should be over. It is long past time that 
my Democratic colleagues end the obstruction, and this body must 
confirm Ronald Batory.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to 
executive session for the consideration of Calendar No. 261, Ronald 
Batory. I further ask that the Senate vote on the nomination with no 
intervening action or debate; that if confirmed, the motion to 
reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table; that the 
President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the 
Senate then resume legislative session.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Mr. SCHUMER. I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I am kind of beyond words to explain why we 
are objecting to someone who was unanimously approved out of the 
committee, is highly qualified, noncontroversial, and would run an 
incredibly important safety agency in this country. I just don't have 
words to explain what that objection might be.
  I hope this is the last time the Democrats in the Senate will object 
to getting this important position filled with an individual who comes 
highly regarded, highly qualified, and has gone through the entire 
process--answered all of the questions through his confirmation--and is 
ready now for a final vote in the U.S. Senate, which would allow him to 
get the job and to get about the important work of ensuring that there 
is safety on the railroads in this country.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Indiana.

                          ____________________