Tester Successfully Blocks White House Amtrak Board Nominee to Ensure Geographic Balance
Senator continues pressure on Administration for Western representation
U.S. Senator Jon Tester secured a major win for Montana this week by forcing the White House to withdraw one of its Amtrak Board nominees and replace them with someone outside of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. The shift follows Senator Tester’s blocking of President Biden’s slate of Amtrak Board nominees until the Administration brought them into compliance with geographic representation requirements from Tester’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“Montanans sent me to Washington to fight for our rural way of life, and I’ll stand up to anyone – including the Biden Administration – who tries to put rural America second,” said Tester. “When I sat down with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to craft our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, I fought to ensure that the American West would be fairly represented on the Amtrak Board. I’m glad the Biden Administration will now follow the law and do right for rural America by guaranteeing our Amtrak Board represents our nation’s diverse geography.”
In April, Tester formally blocked President Biden’s nominees to serve as members of the Amtrak Board of Directors – five of whom were from Northeast Corridor states, violating provisions secured by Tester to ensure full geographic representation and firsthand knowledge of long-distance routes on the Amtrak Board through his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Tester worked with four Democrats, five Republicans, and President Biden to craft the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 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. 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. Prior to Tester’s successful block, five of the six nominees for Amtrak’s Board were 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.
Tester’s bipartisan Infrastructure Law is projected to create more than 800,000 American jobs and lower costs for businesses by making targeted investments that will strengthen our nation without raising taxes on working families. He secured significant wins for Montana in the legislation, including $2.82 billion for Montana’s roads, highways and bridges; $2.5 billion to complete all authorized Indian water rights settlements; $1 billion to complete all authorized rural water projects through the Bureau of Reclamation; $65 billion to deploy broadband to areas across the country that lack internet access and additionally make online connectivity affordable; and $3.37 billion to reduce wildfire risk nationwide, among others. Tester also worked to ensure that all iron, steel, and construction materials used for these projects must be made in America. A full list of Montana provisions in Tester’s bipartisan infrastructure law can be found HERE.