Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, will not support Sen. J.D. Vance’s (R-OH) bipartisan railway safety bill in the wake of a disastrous train derailment that has rocked the small community of East Palestine, Ohio.
In February, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, with a population of less than 5,000, leaving chemicals spewing into the community’s environment.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates that more than 43,000 fish and other aquatic animals were killed as a result of the toxic chemical spill, while residents have reported feeling sick, getting rashes, and developing “chemical bronchitis.”
In response, Vance, along with Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), introduced the “Railway Safety Act” to increase fines for rail companies that spur such problems in American communities and require them to notify local firefighters and other first responders when hazardous chemicals are traveling through such communities, among other provisions.
During the bill’s committee markup, Cruz — who is up for reelection in 2024 — said he “cannot support” the legislation because the “bill is overly and needlessly prescriptive in certain places.”
A source close to Senate negotiations told Breitbart News Cruz has been trying to sabotage the legislation since its inception. For instance, when Vance’s team was drafting the legislation with other Senators, the source said, Cruz’s staff apparently leaked the outline of the bill to railway industry lobbyists.
Cruz has enjoyed immense financial support from the railway industry for years.
In 2018, facing re-election, a political action committee (PAC) funded by BNSF Railway donated $10,000 to Cruz while executives at BNSF Railway donated more than $35,000. Likewise, Union Pacific Railroad’s PAC donated $10,000 to Cruz and spent almost $7,000 to help him get re-elected.
Meanwhile, that same year, Norfolk Southern’s PAC funded Cruz’s re-election campaign to the tune of $5,000. Similarly, the Cruz-aligned Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) — which has lobbied against Vance’s legislation — is funded directly by the railway industry, including Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, CSX Corporation, BNSF Railway, and the Association of American Railroads.
Also in 2018, a PAC affiliated with Cruz enjoyed massive support from rail companies, including $30,000 from Union Pacific, $20,000 from CSX Corporation, and $20,000 from Norfolk Southern.U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
In the committee markup, Cruz claimed the trade-off of increasing railway safety for Americans would make it easier for administrations to restrict the movement of American energy products across the country.
“I think that was a trade many of us were willing to make for improved rail safety, but without sufficient guide rails in the hands of overzealous Biden bureaucrats,” Cruz stated. “The bill’s new mandates in this bill would make it much easier for this administration to restrict the transportation of coal, of oil, of natural gas, and of ethanol.”
Vance, who has championed the bill alongside a bipartisan group of Senators, shot back at Cruz, saying he has previously voted to give the Biden administration discretion over various initiatives, such as capital gains tax cuts.
“[Cruz] himself has supported a number of pieces of legislation even out of this committee that gives plenty of discretion to the Biden administration, including giving the Biden administration discretion over things like capital gains tax cuts for tech CEOs,” Vance said. “If we can give the secretary discretion over capital gains tax cuts for CEOs, surely we can give the secretary discretion to make communities like East Palestine safer.”
There have been more than 450 train derailments across the state of Texas since Cruz took office in 2013 — causing 11 deaths, 44 injuries, and spurring $129 million in damages.
Since the legislation was introduced, it has gained major support from former President Donald Trump, who visited East Palestine after the derailment, Russ Vought, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the American Principles Project.
Americans overwhelmingly back reform efforts like those offered by Vance. A poll conducted in February found that 76 percent of Americans want to see more local, state, and federal oversight of railway safety measures to prevent derailments like the one in East Palestine.
The bill passed the committee with support from Vance and Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO).
Jacob Bliss is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JacobMBliss.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter here.