Senate panel backs Trump’s pick to be No. 2 at Transportation Department

Senate panel backs Trump’s pick to be No. 2 at Transportation Department
© Keren Carrion

A Senate panel on Wednesday approved President Trump’s nominee to be No. 2 at the Department of Transportation (DOT), advancing his nomination.

In a 15-12 vote, lawmakers on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee endorsed Jeffrey A. Rosen to serve as DOT deputy secretary.

Rosen, a senior partner at Kirkland & Ellis, previously served as general counsel for both the DOT and the Office of Management and Budget. If approved by the full Senate, he would serve as second in command to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and supervise the agency’s day-to-day operations.

Democrats who voted against Rosen’s nomination cited concerns over the administration’s proposed cuts to the DOT budget, including eliminating popular infrastructure grant programs — something Democrats pressed Rosen on during his confirmation hearing.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he respects the “dignity and qualifications” of the nominee, but said the country is at a  “time of extreme frustrations” with regard to its crumbling infrastructure.

But Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytic for answers on data Overnight Tech: Facebook faces crisis over Cambridge Analytica data | Lawmakers demand answers | What to watch for next | Day one of AT&T's merger trial | Self-driving Uber car kills pedestrian White House, Democrats reject competing DACA offers MORE (R-S.D.), the chairman of the committee, argued that achieving massive investment in infrastructure won’t happen if top positions at the DOT remain vacant.

Rosen was in a difficult spot having to defend the proposed cuts, Thune said, because he wasn’t able to say something different than the administration.

“I don’t think there’s anything gained by not filling this position,” Thune said.

Trump's budget proposal released last month would cut DOT funding by 13 percent to $16.2 billion, according to a proposal summary.

The spending blueprint would also eliminate funding for the popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program — set up by the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus package to provide an extra injection of cash for surface transportation projects — as well as end federal support for he Essential Air Service program and end federal support for long-distance Amtrak trains.