Career Democratic congressional staffer Robert Primus, 49, has been nominated by President Trump to fill one of two vacant seats on the five-member Surface Transportation Board (STB). Primus’s nomination followed a mid-2019 written recommendation to the White House by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. (Chuck) Schumer (D-N.Y.). He is now paired with Republican nominee Michelle A. Schultz, whose earlier Senate confirmation has been stalled nearly three years pending nomination of a Democrat.
New Jersey native Primus and Schultz, from Pennsylvania, would join Republican Chairman Ann D. Begeman, Republican Patrick J. Fuchs and Democrat Martin J. (Marty) Oberman on the STB, if confirmed by the Senate.
“Primus now faces a Senate Commerce Committee confirmation hearing that is not expected to be controversial,” comments Railway Age Capitol Hill Contributing Editor Frank N. Wilner. “The Republican nominee, Michelle Schultz, previously was recommended for confirmation by the Commerce Committee. Assuming a favorable Commerce Committee vote on Primus, the two names should move in tandem to the Senate floor for confirmation.
“Timing now becomes interesting. It would seem that Chairman Begeman, who controls the docket, will hold back any controversial STB decisions until these new votes are on board and have time to delve into the issues and form opinions—somewhat problematic since neither has a relevant background. But with Begeman’s own future uncertain, as her term expires Dec. 31, there may not be a lot of time between their being sworn in and her departing. While she can remain another 12 months in a holdover status awaiting confirmation of a successor, a Biden victory in November could cause her to depart early enough for President Trump to nominate another Republican rather than leaving it to Biden to fill her seat. And there are other permutations. We live in interesting times.”