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Amtrak supporters, labor unions disagree with president's board appointments


The Bush Administration is once again under fire from several Amtrak supporters, who disagree with the president’s recent move to rename Floyd Hall and Enrique Sosa to the national intercity passenger railroad’s board through recess appointments.

President Bush appointed his “cronies” to the board knowing the Senate might not have confirmed them, some supporters believe.

“It is interesting to note that neither nominee won approval from Congress when they were originally appointed in 2004,” said Friends of Amtrak’s Craig O’Connell in a prepared statement. “Neither gentleman has much support on Capitol Hill.”

A retired chairman and chief executive officer of Kmart Corp., Hall is “noted for his $360,000 in ‘soft money’ contributions to the Bush-Cheney machine since 2000,” and retired BP Amoco Chemicals President Sosa is known for “his large contributions to the GOP,” said O’Connell, adding that during a 2004 confirmation hearing, Sosa said he had never ridden on Amtrak.

Labor union officials also are disappointed with the president’s action.

“The administration has shown its contempt for qualified individuals and its preference for rewarding donors by circumventing the traditional appointment process again,” said Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen National President Don Hahs.

The Constitution allows the president to fill vacancies that occur during a congressional recess.

“This backdoor process is intended for extraordinary situations,” United Transportation Union officials said. “Yet Bush used the unpopular process simply to put two loyalists on the Amtrak board whom he knows the Senate has no interest in confirming.”

In 2003, the president nominated Hall and Sosa to the board, but their nominations weren’t confirmed by Congress. Bush recess appointed Hall and Sosa to the Amtrak board in 2004 and their terms ended when the Senate adjourned at the end of its 2005 session. Hall’s and Sosa’s current appointments will expire at the end of the Senate’s 2006 session.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/6/2006