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Coburn Hold Stymies Transit Safety Bill, Frustrates Local Congressmen

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The D.C. area's Congressional delegation met to discuss the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board after its year-long investigation into Metro.
David Schultz
The D.C. area's Congressional delegation met to discuss the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board after its year-long investigation into Metro.

By David Schultz

A bipartisan bill imposing new federal safety standards on Metro and other public transit agencies is languishing in Congress.

The NTSB says federal standards are needed to prevent transit accidents like last year's Red Line train crash.

But Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, has placed a hold on it, something he does with any bill that contains unbudgeted spending.

That's frustrated the bill's many local supporters.

"I believe that where there's a will, there's a way," Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, says.

She says she'll be paying Coburn a personal visit: "If he wants to hide behind Senate procedures, I'm going to stalk him through the halls and get that bill passed."

And Congressman Steny Hoyer, also a Maryland Democrat, says he doesn't doubt she'll do it.

"I wouldn't want to be on the other side of Senator Mikulski when she says 'Where there's a will...,'" he says. "Because her will is a giant will, and she'll find a way."

But Mikulski will need to act soon.

Congress goes into recess for all of August, then reconvenes for just one month before the midterm elections.

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