Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole's plan to sell Conrail to Norfolk Southern Corp. hit some rough spots in Congress yesterday, including allegations that Dole is withholding information and suggestions that the administration will try to speed Conrail legislation by including it on a budget reconciliation measure.
Rep. James. J. Florio (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on transportation, sent a memorandum to other subcommittee members detailing correspondence between himself and Dole staffers in which he has sought documents pertaining to the selection of Norfolk Southern.
While Dole has never claimed the documents were privileged, the department has "obstructed the subcommittee's access at every opportunity. . . . Soon the subcommittee will have no choice but to consider this matter formally," he wrote.
Florio has complained for months that he was being kept in the dark about Dole's plans. Department officials have said that they recognize Florio's right to the documents and that only logistical problems are at issue.
Florio's memo included a letter from DOT General Counsel Jim J. Marquez offering to bring documents to the subcommittee, but saying that he would "remain with the documents while they are being reviewed." Florio called that a "silly procedure."
While that memorandum was attracting attention, four Democratic senators who sit on both the Commerce and Budget committees wrote to Dole saying that there is "growing concern that the administration seeks to limit debate" on Conrail legislation by including it in a reconciliation budget bill.
Sen. Russell Long (D-La.) asked Dole twice at a recent hearing if that was the adminsitrraiton's intention. She did not answer the question directly the first time, but said the second time, "The intention is not to do so, Sen. Long."