A key Senate transportation leader is considering legislation that would bar members of the Interstate Commerce Commission from remaining in office indefinitely after their terms expire.
Aides to Sen. J. James Exon, D-Neb., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee's surface transportation subcommittee, said the bill is intended, in part, to spur the White House to name a replacement for outgoing ICC Chairman Heather Gradison, whose term expired last Dec. 31."Sen. Exon is disturbed that the administration has not moved to send a nominee to the committee," said Mark Bowen, the senator's press secretary.
The Nebraska Democrat was expected to introduce the legislation today as an amendment to the transportation appropriations bill, which is being debated on the Senate floor this week.
Under current ICC rules, a commissioner whose term has expired may remain in office until the White House names a replacement and the nominee is approved by the Senate Commerce Committee.
Commissioner Frederic Andre's term expired Dec. 31, 1987, but he remains a member of the agency. President Bush nominated Edward M. Emmett to replace Mr. Andre last March. But Robert Holleyman, an aide to Sen. Exon, said last week the Commerce Committee will not hold hearings on Mr. Emmett's nomination until a replacement for Mrs. Gradison also is named.
Mr. Holleyman said the committee wants to consider both nominees at the same time to allow for a proper "balance" in their viewpoints on truck and rail regulation.
Sen. Exon is considering two methods for limiting the period of time a commissioner may remain in office, according to Mr. Bowen.
One approach would bar commissioners from remaining in office for more than one year after their terms expired. Under this scenario, Mr. Andre would be required to relinquish his seat immediately.
The other approach would prevent commissioners serving expired terms from receiving their salaries.
Mr. Bowen said Sen. Exon is considering both options, but had not decided which he would propose.
"Sen. Exon believes that once you have served X number of months beyond the end of your term, then you should be required to leave," Mr. Bowen said.
Mrs. Gradison and the White House agreed earlier this year that she would not seek a new term as chairman because of strong objections from Commerce Committee members, including Sen. Exon.
Mrs. Gradison was criticized by the committee for her implementation of legislation that partially deregulated the railroad industry.
Mrs. Gradison said Sen. Exon's proposed legislation was not necessary.
"They have had Ed Emmett's nomination since last March," she said. "It would be more appropriate for the committee to hold hearings on Mr. Emmett."
Mrs. Gradison also said it was inappropriate "to hold the commission hostage to their (the committee's) failure to act" on Mr. Emmett's nomination.
The White House does not comment on personnel appointments, and there was no indi- cation when President Bush would name a replacement for Mrs. Gradison.
"We have commissioners who are staying far beyond the end of their terms," Mr. Bowen said. "The intent of this proposal is to get some new commissioners in there."
Other regulatory agencies have limits on the period of time a commissioner may stay on the job after a term ends.