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Sen. Mike Braun to support Rokita's nomination to Amtrak board

Posted: 9:54 PM, May 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-14 21:54:35-04
Former aides say GOP lawmaker yelled at staff, docked pay

INDIANAPOLIS – Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, said Tuesday he will support Todd Rokita’s nomination to the Amtrak board of directors, despite Rokita’s previous votes to defund the organization.

President Donald Trump nominated Rokita, a former congressman from Indiana, to the board last week. But when Rokita was in Congress, he twice voted to defund 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 to specifically to defund Amtrak. Rokita voted yes, but the vote failed, 128-293.

Braun said he will support the nomination, even knowing Rokita’s voting history on the topic.

"I know Todd has been on record at some point of maybe defunding Amtrak,” Braun said Tuesday. “Amtrak is another government program that seems to always be struggling. I think when you have somebody who has been there criticizing it, it doesn't hurt to have someone like that on a board to try to improve it and maybe save it."

Rokita issued a statement to RTV6 Tuesday on the nomination, his first comment on the topic.

“Out of respect for the President, the Senate, and the confirmation process, my positions will be articulated through the formal mechanisms the confirmation process affords, except to say simply that I am honored to be considered for this position by President Trump and will always put Hoosiers and other fellow Americans first,” he said.

In February, Rokita joined Indianapolis-based Apex Benefits as general counsel and vice president of legal affairs. Apex Benefits is an employer-focused health care company.

Braun and Rokita have a history. Braun beat him in the 2016 Indiana Senate Republican primary. Todd Young, the other senator from Indiana, has said he will also support the nomination.

Rokita served as Indiana’s secretary of state from 2003-11, then as a U.S. Representative from 2011-19. In Congress, Rokita served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.