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 McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump MORE (R-Ky.). McConnell is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Kathy Griffin offers her guesses on anti-Trump op-ed author A fuel-economy change that protect freedom and saves lives 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 ThuneWant to improve health care? Get Americans off of their couches More Dems want focus on job creation than wage growth Google, Apple, Amazon execs to testify at Senate privacy hearing this month 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 SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (N.Y.), Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle Booker: It would be ‘irresponsible’ not to consider running for president Senate Dems sue Archives to try to force release of Kavanaugh documents MORE (N.J.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand: Kavanaugh accuser shouldn't participate in 'sham' hearing Booker: It would be ‘irresponsible’ not to consider running for president Ex-GOP donor urges support for Dems in midterms: 'Democracy is at stake' 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.