JD Vance excoriates fellow conservative Republicans for opposing rail safety after Ohio train derailment

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Ohio Senator JD Vance excoriated conservative Republicans on Thursday for opposing rail safety, during a Senate hearing about the train derailment that took place in East Palestine.

Mr Vance testified before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee on in the aftermath of the derailment of a train that contained vinyl chloride, a highly hazardous material.

“I think that our leadership, our media and our politicians were slow to respond to this crisis in part because a certain segment of our leadership feels like the people of East Palestine are a little out of style,” he said in his opening remarks. “They have their own politics. They're a little too rural, maybe a little too white.”

The Ohio freshman senator elected was in November and has collaborated on rail safety legislation with his Democratic colleague Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio of Florida; and Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman.

But Mr Vance criticised other Republicans for opposing rail safety, adding that he has engaged with Republican colleagues who have said they acted in good faith even if they had concerns about the bill.

“And these comments are not directed at them who they are directed at is a particular slice of people who seem to think that any public safety enhancements for the rail industry is somehow a violation of the free market,” he said. “Well, if you look at this industry and what's happened the last 30 years, that argument is a farce. This is an industry that enjoys special subsidies that almost no industry enjoys.”

Mr Vance also mentioned how back in November, the Senate voted to prevent a railroad strike before the holidays when workers wanted sick leave benefits, with most Republicans voting to break the strike.

“It was effectively a bailout and now they're claiming before the Senate and the House that are reasonable regulation are reasonable,” he said. “Legislation is somehow a violation of the free market well pot meet the kettle because that doesn't make an ounce of sense.”

Mr Vance said that in recent years, the Republican Party has become the party of non-college-educated working people.

“We are the party of firefighters and police officers are the people who go to work pay their taxes, fight our country's wars and keep our community safe,” he said. “Now we are faced with a choice with this legislation and how we respond to this crisis. Do we do the bidding of a massive industry that is embedded with big government or do we do the bidding of the people who elected us to the Senate into the Congress in the first place?”

The hearing is the first major hearing on the derailment in East Palestine. Norfolk Southern chief executive Alan Shaw also testified before the committee as well.