Bipartisan railway act proceeds despite worries bipartisan opposition awaits

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


In a moment of irony, the bipartisan cosponsors of the Railway Safety Act of 2023, a bill meant to bolster train safety, agree that the legislation’s primary obstacle will be Republicans and Democrats who could unite in support of corporate interests. 

Last week, the act narrowly cleared the Senate Commerce Committee by a 16-11 vote when all Democrats on the committee joined the bill’s three authors – Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, Ohio Republican JD Vance, and Missouri Republican Eric Schmitt – in support. 

“All aboard for rail safety. Next stop: the Senate floor,” Brown tweeted. 

Vance, though, offered a more pessimistic view, taking to the national airwaves to criticize some of his Republican colleagues for not rallying behind working-class Americans, especially in the wake of the devastating train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, in February. 

“This is a divide between the old guard of the Republican Party and the new guard,” Vance said on Newsmax. “Who do we stand for: the corporate lobby, or do we stand for our own voters? I stand for my own voters.”

Democrats have not escaped the anger of everyday Americans after a rash of derailments in early 2023. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been criticized for simultaneously misunderstanding and downplaying the matter of rail safety. 

President Joe Biden, who markets himself as pro-labor, forced rail workers who were threatening to strike back onto the job, even though many of the demands of those workers related to safety upgrades. 

“Today, we are one step closer to making railroads safer,” Brown said in a statement. “We built a broad, bipartisan coalition that agrees on these commonsense safety measures that will finally hold big railroad companies like Norfolk Southern accountable. I’ll continue working with members of both parties to get this done and make sure disastrous derailments like the one in East Palestine never happen again.”

For months, Brown and Vance have been vocal critics of Norfolk Southern, the company that owned the train that derailed in East Palestine. reported Thursday that the company was establishing a fund to pay residents of East Palestine for the loss of property value, an arrangement immediately panned by Brown. 

“Not good enough. Empty promises are only a win for the railroad companies & their shills in Congress,” Brown tweeted. “Norfolk Southern isn’t offering ANY compensation to residents who stay in their homes. They want residents who take their offer to move away, lose out on future settlements & sign away their rights to sue. Ohioans deserve their day in court to hold Norfolk Southern accountable.”