Trump's pick for NHTSA chief clears U.S. Senate panel
Washington — The nomination of President Trump’s pick to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is moving forward after a U.S. Senate committee voted Wednesday in favor of her appointment a full year after the president tapped her for the post.
Consideration of NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King, who was nominated last April by Trump after seven months as the de-facto chief of the agency, has been moved forward after a 14-12 vote by members of U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee meeting that broke down on party lines. All Republicans voted for her appointment. King's nomination was held up for nearly a year as safety advocates raised questions about her performance in the interim role.
King's nomination will go now to a vote of the full U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Republicans by a 53-47 margin.
A former senator, Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who blocked a vote on King's nomination due to concerns of her handling of recalls involving faulty air bags that were made by former Japanese manufacturer Takata was defeated in last November's election. His defeat cleared the way for the panel to move forward with a vote on King on Wednesday.
King was one of eight nominations by Trump that was approved on Wednesday.
The Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for auto safety in Washington, has urged lawmakers to vote against King's nomination.
"Unfortunately, in her eighteen months as Deputy Administrator, Heidi King’s record for removing unsafe vehicles from the road, as well as getting safety features into vehicles, raises serious concerns about her ability to effectively lead the nation’s leading car safety and law enforcement agency," the group said in a statement.
Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, accused King of being too close to the auto industry she is charged with regulating as the head of NHTSA.
"Deaths and injuries from traffic crashes remain a public health crisis, with over 37,000 dead and over 2 million seriously injured every year," said Levine. “NHTSA needs an Administrator whose focus is on the safety of each and every driver, passenger, and pedestrian. Much to our disappointment under Ms. King’s leadership, NHTSA continues to tell the world that safety is a priority but the agency’s actions show that it is industry needs which come first.”
King came to NHTSA with a private sector background as global director of environmental health and safety risk at GE Capital.