Daily Actions for the Week of 3/17/2023

Email Senator Cantwell: Phone: (202) 224-3441 Fax: (202) 228-0514 Press releases
Email Senator Murray: Phone: (202) 224-2621 Fax: (202) 224-0238 Press releases
Email Rep. Kilmer: Phone: (202) 225-5916 News

  1. Contact our senators (especially Sen. Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation) and urge them to co-sponsor and pass S.576, the Railway Safety Act of 2023 introduced this month by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH). This bill would require railroad companies to install and maintain automated devices along tracks that monitor passing trains for problems such as the wheel bearing failure that is thought to have caused the derailment of the Norfolk Suffolk train in East Palestine, Ohio last month. The bill also requires trains carrying hazardous materials to be scanned by hotbox detectors every 10 miles to prevent future derailments related to wheel bearings. The bill also directs the Federal Railway Administration to update regulations for train inspections to ensure that all rail cars on trains carrying hazardous materials are inspected by a qualified rail car inspector at regular intervals.  It also changes the maximum fine that USDOT can issue for safety violations from $225,000 to 1% of a railroad company’s annual operating income. Learn more about the bill here. This bill has already run into GOP opposition.
  2. Contact Rep. Kilmer and urge him to co-sponsor and pressure Kevin McCarthy to bring H.R.1238, the DERAIL Act (Decreasing Emergency Railroad Accident Instances Locally Act) up for a vote. The bill was introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Christopher DeLuzio (D-PA) and has, so far, not a single Republican co-sponsor. This bill would require the Secretary of Transportation to issue the regulations necessary to amend section 171.8 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to modify the definition of “high-hazard flammable train” to mean a single train transporting 1 or more loaded tank cars of a Class 3 flammable liquid or a Class 2 flammable gas and other materials the Secretary determines necessary for safety. The train that detailed in East Palestine, Ohio, was not required to meet a higher level of safety because the polyvinyl chloride it was transporting was not considered to be “that” dangerous but it should be. Here in Washington state, a train derailed this month that spilled 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel on tribal lands near Anacortes. Trains are the most energy-efficient way to move freight; we need them to fight climate change. But companies operate them as if we were still living in the 1800s. It’s going to take federal action to make railroad companies operate safely.
  3. Contact our senators and urge them to confirm the nomination of Julie Su as Secretary of Labor. Early in the Biden administration, Ms. Su was in the running to be nominated as Secretary of Labor, but lost to Boston mayor, Marty Walsh. Instead, Su was confirmed as Deputy Secretary of Labor in July 2021 and has been serving as acting Secretary of Labor since Walsh resigned last month. She is supported by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) now chairs the HELP committee and has indicated his support, as has Sen. Elizabeth Warren. GOP-ers and business leaders opposed her nomination as Deputy Secretary of Labor in 20021 for the way she administered California’s unemployment agency during the COVID-19 pandemic. Or maybe they don’t appreciate that when she was 26, Su sued the operator of a clothing sweat shop that enslaved more than 70 Thai garment workers in El Monte, Calif. The workers were undocumented and forced to live and work in an apartment complex that functioned as a sweatshop in order to “earn” their freedom. Many had been trapped there for seven years. Even worse, Su sued the retailers that sold the clothes produced in the sweatshop. Learn more here.
  4. Contact our senators and urge them to co-sponsor and pass S.J.Res.13, a joint resolution to repeal the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN). The legislation would end two congressional resolutions that authorized the use of military force, also known as an AUMF, in Iraq: one from the Gulf War in 1991 and another from 2002. A vote by the full Senate is expected this week. Learn more here.
  5. Contact Sen. Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), thank her for her support for Phillip Washington, whom Pres. Biden has nominated to run the Federal Aviation Administration and urge her to hold a vote and pass him favorably to a vote by the full senate. Sen. Cantwell’s committee held a hearing to consider Mr. Washington’s nomination on March 1. Mr. Washington has a long history of military service, educational achievement and experience in the business of getting people to their destinations. It’s summarized here. He’s been running Denver International Airport for the past two years, where he’s dealt with airlines, air traffic controllers, pilots, staffing, labor shortages, airport upgrade funding and safety – all the issues he will encounter as FAA administrator. Mr. Washington has drawn the ire of ted cruz (who doesn’t deserve to have his name capitalized or an honorific such as “senator”) whose main gripe seems to be that Mr. Washington isn’t a pilot. In the early days of the FAA, administrators were pilots, but not always so in the past several decades. The real reason for cruz’s ire may be seen in the photo of Mr. Washington here. cruz also complained that as a 24-year veteran of military service that ended in 23 years ago, Mr. Washington is not a civilian and would need a waiver because the FAA administrator is supposed to be a civilian. Look at the list of military pilots who have been FAA administrators and marvel at cruz’s pretzel thinking. Department of Transportation General Counsel John Putnam has confirmed that Phil Washington is statutorily qualified to serve as FAA administrator and that he requires no waiver for prior military service to be considered a civilian. 


  • The nominations of Nancy Abudu (to the Eleventh Circuit Court) and Julie Rikelman (nominated to the First Circuit Court) have been passed favorably out of the Judiciary Committee . Both have been ready for a vote by the full Senate since Feb. 9. That vote is likely delayed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s recovery at home from shingles and Sen. John Fetterman’s treatment for depression at Walter Reed Hospital.
  • Unfortunately, Pres. Biden’s nominee to the Federal Communication Commission, Gigi Sohn, withdrew herself from the nominating process when it became clear that Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) (both of whom have been recipients of big donations from the telecom industry) would not vote for her if a vote by the full Senate were ever to happen. The FCC is evenly split and paralyzed.

If you have a question or a Daily Action, email it here.