Tester Continues Block on President Biden’s Amtrak Nominees Over Lack of Geographical Representation from Western States

At Commerce hearing, Senator says: “The President needs to follow the law”

U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced today that he will continue to block President Biden’s nominees to serve as members of the Amtrak Board of Directors for failure to comply with the geographical representation requirements which he secured through his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Five of the nominees are from Northeast Corridor states, directly violating provisions secured by Tester to ensure full geographic representation and firsthand knowledge of long-distance routes on the Amtrak Board. None of the six nominees are from Western states.

Speaking at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Tester emphasized that he wrote the geographical requirements into law to ensure rural America has a seat at the table.

“Look, I have made my position on nominees clear as it applies to the Amtrak board. I was one of 10 people — five Republicans and five Democrats — that negotiated the bipartisan infrastructure law. It did not happen by accident, we intentionally put language in that would have the Amtrak board members reflect our nation’s geography with specific requirements on how many members could come from Northeast Corridor states relative to other parts of the country. The Administration put forward a list of very good nominees, incredibly good nominees. But they did not comply with the geographic requirements.”

Tester expressed his frustration with the Administration’s failure to comply with the law, and reiterated that he will block the entire slate until the law is followed.

“I am frustrated the Administration did not make the adjustments that the law requires, and they could have. As I announced in April, the slate of Amtrak board nominees must comply with the law before I’m gonna vote to support any of them. And as I said earlier, that doesn’t mean that I think they’re unqualified. It means that I think the President needs to follow the law.”

In April, Tester announced in a letter to President Biden that he would block the Administration’s current slate of Amtrak nominees. Tester’s announcement received the support of Montana rail passenger leaders.

Tester worked with four other Democrats, five Republicans, and President Biden to craft the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). He specifically worked with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to include provisions that will enable Amtrak to modernize its operations and continue to serve the entire country’s needs for decades to come. Part of that effort included crafting a bipartisan fix that restructured the Amtrak Board of Directors so that it better reflects the nation’s geographic diversity. Specifically, in addition to other requirements, Congress mandated in the law that no more than four members of Amtrak’s Board come from the Northeast Corridor, which statute defines to include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. Currently five of the six nominees for Amtrak’s Board are from the Northeast Corridor.

Tester has been Montana’s leading champion for strengthening Amtrak in rural America and last year successfully fought to restore full, daily service to the Empire Builder. Tester’s bill reinstating furloughed Amtrak employees and rolling back previous service reductions to the Empire Builder route was signed into law as part of the American Rescue Plan in March 2021. Tester was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to vote for the bill. Tester personally secured a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the cuts in 2020, inviting Havre’s Paul Tuss, Executive Director of Bear Paw Development Corporation, to testify about how crucial long-distance rail is to rural and frontier economies in Montana and across the country.