2 Seats on STB Likely to be Filled in Early 2020

Two open seats on the U.S. Surface Transportation Board could be filled by early 2020, Railway Age reported this week.

The Trump administration is reported to be considering naming Robert Primus as a Democratic nominee to go with Republican Michelle A. Schultz.

Schultz was nominated two years ago but her confirmation by the Senate has been stalled until a Democrat was named to fill a seat that by law must go to a member of that party.

Primus, 49, is a career congressional staffer who was recommended by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York).

If Primus and Schultz are nominated and confirmed, they would join current board members Republicans Ann D. Begeman and Patrick J. Fuchs, and Democrat Martin J. Oberman.

The STB regulates railroads transporting freight in interstate commerce.

Railway Age said the confirmation process for Primus and Schultz is unlikely to be completed before December.

Under current law the maximum number of STB members is five.

The seat that Primus would hold has an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2022. Schultz would fill a seat that would expire five years after her confirmation date.

Although STB members are nominated by party, the agency is independent of executive branch control.

The party controlling the White House is allowed by law to hold three of the five seats.

If nominated and confirmed, Primus would become the fifth African-American to serve among 114 regulators confirmed by the Senate to serve on the STB or its predecessor, the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Primus does not have a railroad or shipping industry but served on the staffs of two legislators well-known to the railroad community, the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and former Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Massachusetts).

He earned an undergraduate degree in marketing from Virginia’s Hampton University, and participated in the Senior Managers in Government program at Harvard.

His grandfather and great-grandfather were employed by the Southern Railway in North Carolina.

Schultz, 44, initially was nominated 2017 and again in January 2019.

The Senate Commerce Committee endorsed her nomination in July pending the naming of a Democrat to serve on the Board.

She is deputy general counsel for commuter railroad Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Earlier in her career, Schultz was an associate with the Philadelphia-based law firm of White and Williams, dealing with bankruptcy and commercial litigation, and a law clerk with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

She has an undergraduate degree in English from Penn State University, a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and a law degree from Widener University.

Railway Age said it has learned that shipper and railroad interests have told the Senate and White House that they have “no objections” to a Primus nomination.

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