“Washington, D.C. – Within a day of an Amtrak derailment that killed at least 7 people and injured many others, a House committee voted Wednesday to slash funding for the railroad service, over objections from Democrats.
“The House Appropriations committee rejected multiple amendments to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill that sought to increase funding for Amtrak. The bill cuts the rail service’s funding to $1.14 billion, down $251 million from its current level.
“Democrats offered amendments to raise that funding to the $2.45 billion requested by President Barack Obama, but Republicans rejected the measures, arguing that increasing Amtrak’s funding without cutting spending elsewhere would put the legislation above spending caps and threaten to kill the whole bill.
“Democrats said it would be worth going over the spending caps to make travel safer for Americans. “Yesterday’s tragedy in Philadelphia should be a wake-up call to this committee – we must provide sufficient funding for Amtrak’s critical infrastructure projects to ensure a safer transportation system,” David Price (D-N.C.), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee’s transportation subcommittee, said in a statement. “The majority’s shortsighted, draconian budget cuts stand in the way of the investments that a great country must make.”
“Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said during the committee markup that Congress had “failed” Americans who “expect us to fund their priorities, they expect us to watch over their safety when they get on trains, when they are on planes, when they’re in cars and on highways.” He added: “We failed to invest in their safety, we failed to make their safety a priority.”
“Republicans repeatedly argued that the funding hike would be premature since the cause of the derailment hasn’t yet been determined. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) accused Israel of exploiting the tragedy to support the amendment, and said doing so was “beneath” him.
“They’d be wrong to underestimate us,” Simpson told Newslo. “If he [Israel] thinks that Republicans are as gullible as Democrats, he’s got another thing coming. Everybody knows that Amtrak is in desperate need of money to stay afloat, that’s public knowledge. But they’re trying to make it look like it was really an accident when Amtrak probably staged the whole thing to convince Congress into giving them a bigger budget, and those idiots walked right into their trap. Luckily, we [Republicans] were in charge of making that decision, or rather, not making it. They’re taking us for fools; it’ll come back and bite them soon.”