Schumer Allows Three Transportation Nominees to Be Confirmed

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer dropped his objections to three of President Donald Trump’s transportation nominees, ending a blockade intended to force the administration to help pay for a massive Hudson River tunnel project.

The New York lawmaker lifted his holds on Ronald Batory to lead the Federal Railroad Administration and two other nominees, who were later confirmed by a Senate voice vote on Tuesday.

Schumer said he would now press lawmakers to come up with a significant federal contribution to a $30 billion plan that includes a new rail tunnel between New York City and New Jersey that would help bind the Northeast Corridor to the New York area.

Schumer ended his protest a day after the administration released a 53-page infrastructure plan that made no mention of the tunnel project, known as Gateway.

“It’s clear they aren’t interested in advancing the ball on Gateway -- one of the nation’s most important and desperately needed infrastructure projects,” Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said in a statement. “Rather than wait around for the administration to come to their senses, Schumer and his colleagues will continue to work together to advance this project in the Congress.”

Obama ‘Deal’

Schumer and other New York and New Jersey officials had said President Donald Trump was not honoring a deal with President Barack Obama’s administration to split the cost of the project with the states. The Federal Transit Administration has said “there is no such agreement” and called it a “local project.”

The Transportation Department had criticized Schumer for blocking the nominees -- especially Batory after recent train derailments -- and said the Gateway program and nominees should be considered separately on their merits.

The other nominees were Adam Sullivan, assistant Transportation secretary for government affairs; and Raymond P. Martinez, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The infrastructure proposal doesn’t directly finance projects like Gateway. While such endeavors would be eligible for funding under a grant competition or as a “transformative” effort under the plan, the federal government doesn’t want to chose projects, a senior White House official has said. 

Schumer and other Democrats also have complained that the Trump administration’s budget proposal cuts funding for existing transit and transportation programs, including Amtrak.

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