John Thune embodies the rail industry’s Washington influence machine that could now kill bipartisan safety legislation.

by Julia Rock, Jordan Uhl, and, Matthew Cunningham-Cook, The Lever

In 2004, a registered lobbyist for a railroad corporation got himself elected to the U.S. Senate, and then he promptly helped his former client become eligible for billions in cheap federal loans in the wake of the company’s hazmat train derailment. The same Republican lawmaker later spearheaded the effort to repeal a major rail safety rule while becoming one of the Senate’s top recipients of campaign cash from the industry.

Now, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is once again going to bat for the industry, positioning himself as a key obstacle to the most substantial rail safety initiative considered by Congress in years.

The rising smoke cloud after authorities released chemicals from a train derailment as seen from the ground in a nearby neighborhood.

Thune, the second highest ranking Republican in the upper chamber, has been critical of the bipartisan push for quick and expansive legislation in the wake of the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment that has rocked national politics.

“We’ll take a look at what’s being proposed, but an immediate quick response heavy on regulation needs to be thoughtful and targeted,” Thune told The Hill, echoing his earlier comments to CNN insisting that lawmakers should wait to “get the facts, and then figure out what, if anything, needs to be changed.”

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