Free Ron Batory!!!

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Foolishness by the senators from New York and New Jersey continues. Six months ago, these four Democrats—Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Bob Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey—put a “hold” on the confirmation vote for Ronald Batory to run the Federal Railroad Administration. Bear in mind that Batory, a career railroad officer, is the only person actually qualified to hold this job since the early days of the agency.

The reason for the hold, you will recall, is that the Fab Four wanted President Trump to put billions into the federal budget to fund new railroad tunnels under the Hudson River, rebuild the existing, century-old tubes and construct a new bridge over the Hackensack River at Portal, N.J. Do that, they said to the White House, and we will release our "hold" and permit a vote on Batory.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation informed the senators that the agreement they thought they had with former President Obama for funding these projects never in fact legally existed. While not saying the federal government won’t participate in these improvements, DOT said the funding plan the senators discussed with Obama, in which the feds would pay most of the cost and lend the two states the remainder, won’t fly.

Still, they didn’t get the message. Yesterday, Senator Gillibrand was at the White House partaking in a televised negotiating session with Trump over immigration matters. Then the cameras left the room and the doors were closed. Even so, according to Politico, reporters could hear Gillibrand raise her voice and ask why the tunnel and bridge work (known as the Gateway Project) isn’t being funded, given the unsafe condition of the existing infrastructure. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao could be heard replying that Gillibrand and the other three have stalled Batory’s confirmation, and that if she wants to talk about rail safety, she will have to do so with Batory.

So there you have it: Rail safety still held hostage by Booker, Gillibrand, Menendez and Schumer. They thought that kidnapping Batory was politically smart, and now they’re further from their objective of funding Gateway than when they started.

It’s time to lay down the swords. Let this government function. The senators should permit an up or down vote on Batory to run the FRA. Once that happens, I suspect some movement will occur to fund the Gateway Project. Just as none of the four senators has objections to Batory’s qualifications to run the agency, neither do people familiar with the Gateway Project dispute its need.

And if the senators still want to play games, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the power to invoke cloture, and for this he needs but 51 votes. McConnell did so a month ago to get a DOT assistant secretary for policy confirmed. I admire McConnell’s patience and respect for Senate traditions. But at a certain point patience becomes stupidity, and we are at that point. –Fred W. Frailey

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