Senators Agree to Work on Comprehensive Rail Bill

June 5, 2009 Bookmark and Share

An expected cloture vote on a railroad antitrust bill was cancelled early this week after its sponsor, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) agreed to work together on a comprehensive rail reform bill.

The antitrust bill, S. 146, would eliminate a longstanding railroad exemption to antitrust laws and would bring railroad mergers and rate changes under the purview of the Justice Department. A cloture vote on the bill was set for Tuesday, but Rockefeller and others wrote their colleagues last week asking for opposition to the effort.

On Monday, Kohl and Rockefeller circulated another Dear Colleague, explaining that they had jointly asked that the cloture motion be withdrawn and would work together to craft a piece of comprehensive legislation for consideration later in the year.

NAWG has been active for many years in efforts to develop and pass legislation that would bring about rail reform and meaningful relief for rail shippers and has been supportive of both Kohl’s and Rockefeller’s work on this issue.

The Association and 16 other groups released a statement Monday praising the collaboration toward a comprehensive bill. The statement, originally drafted by NAWG staff, said, in part:

“We believe meaningful reform and relief can be best accomplished through passage of comprehensive rail legislation focused on reforming the Surface Transportation Board (STB), improving competitive conditions in the industry, and providing meaningful access to rate and service relief mechanisms.

“We recognize and appreciate the multiple efforts ongoing to improve competitive conditions in the rail industry…We are pleased that efforts to achieve a comprehensive bill are moving forward and U.S. agriculture stands ready to work with Senators Rockefeller, Kohl and others toward the goal of comprehensive legislation that is critical to the agricultural community.”

To read the full ag coalition statement, please visit

In other rail news, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy has scheduled a mark-up of the H.R. 233, the House version of rail antitrust legislation, for June 11.