GOP rep criticizes Obama administration for transport vacancies

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The chairman of the House committee that handles rail and pipeline issues criticized the Obama administration for having vacancies atop several transportation regulatory agencies. 

“Last year we had both [Federal Railroad Administration] and [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] Administrators come before us to answer for the administration.  Now, we have two acting administrators,” said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif), who is chairman of the House Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. 

“Mr. [Timothy] Butters and Ms. [Sarah] Feinberg have been good to work with. We appreciate their service and our frustration has nothing to do with either of them personally,” he continued. “But these are very important times and we need certainty in these agencies’ leadership. Yet, the Administration has not formally nominated anyone for these top safety positions.” 

Critics have lamented the lack of progress from the Obama administration on filling several transportation related vacancies, including positions at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that are all currently filed by temporary chiefs. 

A recent spate of accidents involving commuter, subway and oil trains have raised awareness about the number of vacancies atop the federal government’s transportation watchdogs. 

The vacant transportation positions all require confirmation from the Senate, which is in control of Republicans now for the first time since 2006.  

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has told lawmakers that the administration is working on identifying nominees for the vacant regulatory positions, but he has also defended the temporary chiefs who have been in charge in the interim. 

“There is an awful lot of work underway to move forward on some of these roles, and that is information that I’ll have to let the White House move forward with at an appropriate time. But I do believe there’s some imminent work on those,” Foxx said during a March Senate hearing. 

“But also we have good leaders in place, even if they are acting,” he continued. “And the expectation is that there’s no drop-off in our ability to focus.” 

Tags Federal Railroad Administration Jeff Denham Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Sarah Feinberg Timothy Butters

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