Senate failed to act on NMB, STB nominees

December 23, 2010

WASHINGTON — Two Obama administration nominations of Republicans to key transportation regulatory positions — one to the National Mediation Board; the other to the Surface Transportation Board — were returned to the White House by the Senate this week without confirmation action and will have to be resubmitted to the Senate in the new Congress.

Republican Thomas M. Beck had been nominated by the president to the three-member NMB, for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2013; and Republican Ann D. Begeman had been nominated to the three-member Surface Transportation Board for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2015. Both agencies have Democratic majorities.

Under rules of the Senate, nominations not confirmed during the session during which they are made must be returned to the White House. The president may nominate them again in 2011, or choose new nominees. There is no indication Beck or Begeman will not be renominated or that the Senate would not confirm they if renominated.

Owing to a busy Senate calendar and the late timing of both nominations, neither was afforded a hearing before a Senate committee — Beck before the Health, Education & Labor Committee; Begeman before the Commerce Committee — an interim step prior to a Senate floor vote on confirmation.

Beck was nominated to succeed Republican Elizabeth Dougherty on the NMB. Dougherty’s term expired June 30, but under NMB rules she may continue serving indefinitely until a successor is confirmed. Since Oct. 2, Beck has been serving as a Senate-confirmed member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). The FLRA administers labor-management relations for non-Postal Service federal employees.

Previously, Beck was a partner in the law firm of Jones Day, practicing labor and employment law. He is a 1992 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School. Beck also is a part-time professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he teaches courses on legislation and public policy.

The other two members of the NMB are Democrats — Chairman Harry Hoglander, who is serving his third term, and Linda Puchala, who was confirmed to her first term in May 2009

Begeman was nominated to succeed Republican Chip Nottingham on the STB. Nottingham’s term expires Dec. 31, but under STB rules he may continue serving until a successor is confirmed, but no later than Dec. 31, 2011. Begeman is a long-time aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and most recently has been an aide to the Senate Commerce Committee.

The other two members of the STB are Democrats — Chairman Dan Elliott, who is serving his first term; and Frank Mulvey, who is serving his second term.

The STB has regulatory authority over railroad mergers and labor protection for rail employees adversely affected by mergers, line sales and leases, and line abandonments. The agency also regulates railroad freight rates.