Senator Sherrod Brown: “It’s long past time Congress stood up to the rail lobbyists and passed the bipartisan Railway Safety Act, to ensure a disaster like what happened in East Palestine does not happen again.”
News organizations are reporting that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he will schedule a vote this year for the bipartisan Railway Safety Act. Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) are the lead sponsors. The two senators introduced the bill following Norfolk Southern’s February 2023 derailment and toxic chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio. The legislation would require two-person crews for most freight trains and would substantially increase fines for safety violations, along with tougher safety standards for trains carrying hazardous materials as well as other reforms.
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) and other railroad industry lobbyists have pushed back on significant safety provisions in the bill, particularly the mandate for two-person train crews. Railroads have been criticized for putting profits ahead of safety.
Senator Brown recently told a West Virginia newspaper, The Intelligencer, “It’s long past time Congress stood up to the rail lobbyists and passed the bipartisan Railway Safety Act, to ensure a disaster like what happened in East Palestine does not happen again.”
Democrats have a 51-seat majority in the Senate and every member of their caucus is expected to support the measure. Republican co-sponsors include Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Roger Marshall (Kan.). Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt (Mo.) voted for the bill in committee and is expected to do so again if it reaches the floor. Vance has said that two other Republican senators have promised him they’ll vote for the legislation, though they’re staying anonymous for now. Sixty votes are needed for the legislation to withstand a filibuster and move forward.
“We’ve had commitments from the majority leader for a while that we would get a vote on it. I think we’re now talking about floor time and what might actually happen,” Vance told The Hill newspaper, adding “we’re at least progressing.”
For more information click on this link to The Intelligencer.