Reese H. Taylor Jr., President Reagan's nominee for the chairmanship of the Interstate Commerce Commission, yesterday denied charges that he was handpicked for the job by the Teamsters union, which has criticized the ICC's vigorous implementation of the trucking deregulation law and wants to slow it down.
"It is absolutely a false accusation," Taylor told the Senate Commerce Committee during hearings on his confirmation. "I'm not in anybody's pocket. I am beholden to no one. I am not a political payoff."
Taylor's comments were made in response to a question from Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), chairman of the committee, about charges contained in an article in Common Cause magazine. "Let's put this to rest," Packwood said about the article, which alleged that the Teamsters union, the only major union to endorse Reagan during the election campaign, was able to name the chairman of the agency that regulates the trucking industry.
Although Taylor's selection is supported by the Teamsters, Taylor said he had not sought their endorsement. He said the charges of Teamster influence in his nomination got started "when some Teamster was beating his breast, indicating they were going to have somebody other than a maniacal devotee of the free-market system. . . The press picked it up, and it has been my cross to bear ever since," he said.
"I didn't solicit their support. I didn't ask for it. I have no involvement in it," he said.
The recommendation of Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.), one of Reagan's close advisers, was important in his nomination to the post, Taylor said Taylor, 53, is a former law partner of Laxalt and served as chairman of the Nevada Public Service Commission when Laxalt was governer of the state. Taylor, currently a partner in the Carson City law firm of Allison, Brunetti, MacKenzie & Taylor, was Nevada chairman of the Reagan for President Committee last year.
Although he was questioned in general about the Teamsters' endorsement, he was not questioned about specific allegations or discrepancies contained in the magazine article and pretty much breezed through the hearing, which lasted only 33 minutes.
Packwood and Sen. Howard W. Cannon (D-Nev.), the committee's ranking minority member, who teamed up last year to lead the trucking deregulation effort in the Senate, supported Taylor's nomination, with Cannon introducing his fellow Nevadan to the committee. But both also reaffirmed their support for trucking deregulation and indicated that they expected nominees to the ICC to recognize that Congress has made it clear through the legislation that the general policy direction for the trucking industry's deregulation.
"My views are well known, and they are very strongly held," Packwood said, "It's clear that the intention of Congress is to move toward more deregulation," he said. He said that he would not want "anyone dragging his heels" at the ICC and was satisfied that any allegation that Taylor would "turn around the congressional mandate is absolutely unfounded."
Cannon also praised Taylor but added, "I assure you we will be watching very closely to see that the legislation is being implemented expeditiously."
Taylor told the committee in his opening statement that he does not regard himself as either a "regulator" or "deregulator." He said he would see it as his responsibility to administer and implement the reform legislation enacted last year "in accordance with the congressional intent." But he said several times that he "may be a little more cautious than some" in making regulatory decisions.