Senate advances Trump pick for No. 3 Transportation post

Senate advances Trump pick for No. 3 Transportation post
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The Senate on Thursday advanced President Trump’s pick for the No. 3 spot at the Department of Transportation (DOT), despite protests from Northeast Democrats who want the White House to fund rail-and-tunnel projects in their region.

In a 87-9 vote, senators agreed to invoke cloture and end debate on the nomination of Derek Kan to be undersecretary of transportation for policy at the DOT. The Senate will vote to confirm him on Monday.

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Kan, who has been a general manager for Lyft and a member of Amtrak’s board, previously served as a policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 6B defense bill Poll: Kim Jong Un has higher approval among Republicans than Pelosi The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Outcry raises pressure on GOP for immigration fix MORE (R-Ky.). McConnell is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoMitch McConnell — the Republican Senate's invaluable engine The lifesaving difference between connected cars vs. self-driving cars Transportation secretary defends brother-in-law’s nomination to lead pension agency MORE. Kan was also a presidential management fellow at the Office of Management and Budget.

Trump nominated Kan back in April, but his nomination has been held up by a handful of Democrats who are demanding assurances from the administration that it will fund the multibillion-dollar Gateway Program, which is overseeing several critical transportation projects in the Northeast Corridor.

“This non-controversial, well-qualified nominee has been languishing in the Senate for far too long.  It’s truly unfortunate that we have to go through the cloture process on this particular nominee, who is well known to many of us here due to his previous work as a staffer in the Senate,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril McConnell: Mueller 'ought to wrap it up' Graham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult MORE (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. 

“No project should get to cut the line based on the machinations of a handful of our Democrat colleagues.”

Among the Democrats who voted against cloture on Kan’s nomination were Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDems must stop picking foxes to guard the financial hen house Schumer warns 'House moderates' against immigration compromise bill Trump knocks Schumer, touts North Korea summit in early morning tweet MORE (N.Y.), Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerTo strengthen our democracy, we need to remove obstacles that keep students from voting Members of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit The Hill's Morning Report — Can the economy help Republicans buck political history in 2018? MORE (N.J.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSenate passes 6B defense bill Congress must confront sexual abuse of military children The Hill's Morning Report — Can the economy help Republicans buck political history in 2018? MORE (N.Y.).

At issue is the Gateway Program, which is a top priority for Northeast-area lawmakers and would construct a tunnel under the Hudson River and add a platform and station capacity in New York's Penn Station.

The connection between New Jersey and Penn Station — which moves hundreds of thousands of passengers daily — consists of a pair of 105-year-old tunnels that were in desperate need of repair before incurring additional damage from Superstorm Sandy. The tunnels are expected to be closed in the next decade for at least a year for repairs.

But closing the existing tunnels without the creation of additional tracks would reduce system capacity by 75 percent, which could cause paralyzing traffic jams and harm the regional economy.

New York, New Jersey, Amtrak and the Obama administration had all agreed to help fund the project.

However, supporters of the program have questioned the Trump administration’s commitment to the projects. The Department of Transportation withdrew from the program’s board of trustees this summer, and Trump proposed limiting funding for a grant program in a way that would have excluded Gateway.