James Antle writes for the Washington Examiner about the political significance of one piece of legislation on Capitol Hill.

After a train derailment in East Palestine exposed his constituents to toxic chemicals, Sen. JD Vance (R-OH) introduced a railway safety bill that quickly won bipartisan support.

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and John Fetterman (D-PA) joined a number of conservative Republicans in supporting Vance’s efforts, which would among other things regulate crew sizes and under certain circumstances require railroad companies to notify local fire departments when carrying hazardous materials. But a slew of conservative groups, organized by FreedomWorks, came out against the legislation, warning it would create “gross inefficiencies for thousands of businesses.”

The debate has implications beyond the issue of railway safety. The Republican electoral coalition is becoming more working-class and its relationship with the business community has grown increasingly complicated. Vance is among the Republicans arguing that conservative domestic policy needs to be retooled to serve the economic and material interests of the new coalition in mind rather than the old one.

These disagreements could also have a major impact on 2024. The Republican primaries look likely to be dominated by former President Doanld Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who are in many ways debating the meaning of conservative populism. The general election could once again come down to industrial battleground states, as President Joe Biden appears to recognize. The same could be true of control of the Senate.

“There’s pretty broad recognition [among Senate Republicans] that there’s a different coalition now,” Vance told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “We’re bringing party leadership in line with the coalition.” He said prioritizing the needs of East Palestine over the railroads’ interests was “basic constituent service.”

Two of the conservative Republicans who have been most supportive of Vance’s railway safety bill are Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who is also a populist, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has in recent years become a fellow traveler.