Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester announced Tuesday he would block President Joe Biden’s six nominees to the Amtrak Board of Directors, despite previously vowing to confirm them.
Tester, who is seeking a fourth term in the upper chamber, has previously voted to confirm every single one of Biden’s executive and judicial branch nominees. He said in a video posted to social media that he would block the six nominees, since none of them are from the western portion of the U.S. Blocks on nominees serve the same function as filibusters, and can be broken with 60 votes in support of a cloture motion. (RELATED: Despite Media Claims, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester Votes With Biden More Than 99% Of The Time)
“Amtrak is not only critical to Montana, but it’s critical to rural communities and economies across this entire country. And it’s important that folks in rural America have a voice at Amtrak to assure that we aren’t left behind. So after taking a look at the president’s slate of nominees and finding that not only are none of the six from the west, but that five are from the northeast corridor, I’ll be blocking these nominees until rural America has a seat at the table,” Tester said.
I will be blocking the President’s slate of nominees for the Amtrak Board of Directors until rural America is given their lawful seat at the table. pic.twitter.com/aDy5mISRSx
— Senator Jon Tester (@SenatorTester) April 25, 2023
Biden first announced his slate of nominees to the Amtrak Board of Directors in April 2022. Tester had previously said he would vote to confirm them, telling the nominees during a Sept. 7, 2022 Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing that he did not “plan on stopping any of [them] from being on this board.”
“You guys have a lot of work cut out for you to understand long-distance traffic. And I say that not knowing where you’ve totally come from, I’ve read your bios. But the bottom line is if we lose Amtrak in Montana, it is an incredible hit,” Tester added.
Republicans have been staunchly critical of Biden’s public transportation policy. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $58 billion for Amtrak, which Biden has favored since he rode the train system as a senator. Before the IIJA and COVID-era infusion of cash, however, the state-owned corporation faced long-term financial liabilities.
“When we passed my bipartisan infrastructure law, we set clear geographic requirements to ensure that every corner of this country had representation on the Amtrak board. This slate of nominees fails to meet those requirements. That’s the end of the story,” Tester concluded.