WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indiana, is one step closer to being on the Amtrak board of directors after a Senate committee approved his nomination this week.
President Donald Trump nominated Rokita to an open position on the board in May, but the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the first step of his nomination Wednesday in a voice vote.
His nomination now moves to the full Senate.
When Rokita was in the U.S. House of Representatives, he twice voted to end federal funding to Amtrak.
One vote came in March 2015, when he voted no on the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, which reauthorized federal support for Amtrak and other programs. Rokita voted no, but the vote passed, 316-101. Another came in 2017, as part of an amendment specifically to defund Amtrak. Rokita voted yes, but the vote failed, 128-293.
During his confirmation process with the committee, Rokita defended his previous votes to defund Amtrak by saying he was trying to “send a message.”
“Sometimes in sending a message, we’re limited to yes, to no or to present,” he said in July. “I believe in fiscal responsibility for all of us. I believe my votes against these funding provisions sent a message to Amtrak.”
Rokita, who served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Congress and represented a part of Indiana that has an Amtrak line, has defended his support in the organization. He has also noted he voted in favor of the FAST Act in 2015, which provided grant opportunities for Amtrak.
“I believe in a national rail system,” Rokita said. “I have been a user of Amtrak my entire adult life.”
Rokita represented Indiana’s 4th congressional district from 2011-19. He vacated his seat to run for U.S. Senate, but he lost the primary to eventual winner Mike Braun.