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Senate Democrats Struggling To Move Transit Safety Bill Past Coburn

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By David Schultz

Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, is blocking a bill that would impose new safety regulations on Metro and other transit systems.

Senate Democrats are trying to get Coburn to change his mind, but they're not having much success.

The Public Transportation Safety Act enjoys wide bipartisan support, but Coburn is single-handedly blocking it with a Senatorial procedure known as a "hold."

Coburn's office didn't return our calls, but he's previously said he's opposing the bill because it increases federal power over the states.

"We don't think this is an overreach. We don't believe that this is any kind of federal power grab," Peter Rogoff, President Obama's Federal Transit Administrator, says.

Rogoff says many state transit agencies aren't opposed to more regulation, "And in fact, many of the state agencies have been very clear to us that they would appreciate the guidance, they would appreciate the training, they would appreicate the standards - and they would appreciate the help.

Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, met with Coburn recently to convince him to relent.

But her spokesperson, Rachel MacKnight, says Coburn wouldn't budge.

MacKnight says Senate Democrats have drafted a letter to Coburn urging him to change his mind, and are looking for key Republicans to sign on.

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