Senate confirms Obama’s nominee to STB
The Senate on Friday confirmed President Obama’s choice of Daniel R. Elliott III, a union attorney, to be chairman of the Surface Transportation Board.
The confirmation came after Elliott’s employer, the United Transportation Union, offered up an apology for a statement that linked the appointment of Elliott and another rail regulator to donations from the union’s political action committee.
In a letter to Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.V., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, UTU International President Mike Futhey said he wanted to “profusely apologize,” saying a “statement that appears to attribute Mr. Elliott’s nomination to the influence of UTU PAC was not in any way appropriate and is certainly not an accurate reflection of the facts surrounding his nomination.”
On July 7, the union had posted a statement on its Web site quoting Futhey as saying “the selection by President Obama of Dan Elliott and Joe Szabo to head major transportation regulatory agencies is a tribute to the political influence of the UTU, which flows from the UTU PAC. We have good reason to expect President Obama to reach into the UTU ranks for other appointments in the near future.”
Szabo, the former UTU Illinois state legislative director, was nominated and confirmed by the Senate to head the Federal Railroad Administration.
Members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee appeared not to have been aware of the statement until last week during a routine hearing on Wednesday in which they were preparing to send several nominations and bills to the Senate floor.
“In the many years that I've been in this body that is one of the most embarrassing, ridiculous, self-aggrandizing, inappropriate, harmful and a few other words, press release I can remember,' Rockefeller said. “I think the president of the union should write a letter of apology to this committee.”
“I agree with you,” Hutchison said. “I don’t think it is Mr. Elliott’s fault, but I think it has to be addressed.”
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said the statement was 'totally inappropriate and it reflects poorly on the nominee, who probably didn't know the statement was made. But it troubled me as a member of the committee to receive a statement that so blatantly referenced the leveraging of influence to cause an appointment to be made.'
Hutchison and Rockefeller said during the Wednesday hearing they would put a “hold” on Elliott’s nomination, but after receiving Futhey’s letter, the nomination went forward and the full Senate confirmed the appointment.