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Verizon Senior Vice President Peter Davidson Questioned on Data and Science at Confirmation Hearing

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WASHINGTON, July 28, 2017 – At a Wednesday confirmation hearing for Peter Davidson to be general counsel of the Department of Commerce and others, Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Bill Nelson, D-Florida, said the country needed data-driven leadership.

Chairman John Thune, R-South Dakota, introduced Davidson and the other nominees.

Davidson was senior vice president of congressional relations at Verizon for more than a decade. If confirmed, he would provide legal and policy direction for an array of Commerce Department functions.

Nelson said he has been talking about the issue of roads, ports, rails and broadband languishing for years, but nothing has still been done. This jeopardizes safety, and programs, such as Amtrak, need funding, he said.

Davidson said it was important that the Commerce Department treat businesses fairly. He spoke against policies that create barriers and said it was important to also protect against unfair policies from foreign governments. He also highlighted the importance of an accurate U.S. census.

He also said that it was easy to achieve goals when working in a bipartisan manner.

Other Commerce Department officials also questioned

The other nominees being considered at the hearing were Ronald Batory to be administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Mark Buzby to be administrator of the Maritime Administration, and Karen Kelley to be undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs.

Batory recently served as president and chief operating officer of Conrail. If confirmed, he will be responsible for developing passenger and railroad policies, safety regulations and research and development.

Buzby is a retired Navy admiral. If confirmed, he will be responsible for repairing external relationships, insuring a safe environment for cadets and overseeing the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Kelley has had a career in financial investment with Invesco, an investment management company. If confirmed, she will produce in depth reports, fact sheets and briefings on economic policy issues and events.

Batory said he wanted to enhance railroad administration training opportunities, and that safety would be a priority.

Buzby, born and raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey, said that he was destined to be a mariner, having taking his first breath of salt air as an infant. He wants to ensure that U.S. flagships in good repair and that the skilled mariners are needed, and he will deal with the Merchant Marine Academy is improved.

Kelley said that a high-quality 2020 census was her highest priority.

Chairman and ranking member weigh in

Under questioning from Thune, all four pledged to work with the committee, and all of them said yes.

Nelson wanted to prioritize safety at railroad crossings as trains get faster

Nelson then asked Davidson how he would deal with silencing experts and if experts would be free from political influence. Davidson said he will insure that laws and regulations will be upheld and will make sure information provided by experts is accurate.

Nelson replied by asking Davidson what he would think if employees weren’t allowed to use the term “climate change.” Davidson said he would look into any interference with the duty of experts. Davidson also said transparency and public comments help create better regulations and laws.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, asked Kelley if she would commit to resisting pressure from the Trump Administration or any political pressure at all. She committed to resisting pressure.

Schatz said no one of either party should be prohibited from using words to describe their world, referring to the conversation Nelson had with Davidson.

(Photo by Casey Ryan.)

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