Monday, June 01, 2009

Rereg cloture vote canceled as Senate seeks compromise

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Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), prime sponsor of Senate bill S. 146, the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009, said Monday he was canceling a Senate vote on the bill, originally scheduled for June 2. S. 146 seeks to remove the rail industry’s limited antitrust exemptions, and also would remove the Surface Transportation Board’s exclusive jurisdiction over the rail industry.

Kohl said he has reached agreement with others, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, to possibly include some limited portions of S. 146 into a bill that the Senate Commerce Committee plans to introduce in the near future that would reauthorize the STB.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter Monday signed by both Kohl and Rockefeller, the senators said “we have jointly decided to ask Senator [Harry] Reid (D-Nev.) to withdraw the pending cloture petition on S. 146, the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act. We share the common goals of addressing the longstanding concerns of rail shippers and making the rail industry more competitive.

“The Commerce and Judiciary Committees intend to work together on comprehensive rail competition legislation,” the letter continued. “We hope to shortly have a bipartisan package that reforms the Surface Transportation Board and repeals the railroads’ antitrust exemption available for the consideration by the full Senate. We are working on harmonizing our two efforts to produce a robust reform package.”  

Late last week, Rockefeller and three other Commerce Committee members—Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and John Thune (R-S.D.)—circulated a letter asking other senators to oppose a procedural motion that must pass before the Senate can take a final vote on the bill’s passage. The move was backed by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.