HOUSE VOTES TO RESTORE FUNDING OF $1.176 BILLION FOR AMTRAK
On Wednesday June 29, 2005 two votes in the House under the Transportation Appropriations Bill HR 3058 were adopted to restore funding levels for FY2006 continue running long distance trains and. A third “mean spirited” amendment seeking to take $100 million away from Amtrak was overwhelmingly defeated.
The first Amendment was sponsored by Reps.Steven LaTourette (R-OH), James Oberstar (D-MN), Corinne Brown (D-FL), Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). It was adopted by voice vote that restored Amtrak’s funding level to $1.176 billion for FY 2006.
The House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee and the Full Committee had adopted only $550 million for Amtrak. This is a number that President and CEO David L. Gunn said was a shutdown number that would force the company into bankruptcy.
The second Amendment by Representatives Corinne Brown (D-FL), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) was adopted by a vote of 269-152. This amendment was to strike from the bill language to eliminate a committee-passed prohibition against spending federal funds on all long-distance trains that under complicated calculations operated at a loss of more than $30 per passenger. This would have affected about 25 States. At least 70 Republicans voted in favor of the Amendment.
The third Amendment by Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) was rejected by a vote of 59-362. This amendment was so mean spirited that it embarrassed members of both sides of the aisle. This amendment would have cut $100 million from Amtrak for programs for the homeless. Congressmen LaTourette and Dave Obey (D-WI) together with Congresswoman Corrine Brown were able to emotionally debate the issue along with many other members castigating those that would go to the extreme of such a tactic to kill Amtrak.
The battle is only half won. Tentatively, the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee will be voting on an Amtrak bill on July 12, 2005 and in the Full Transportation Appropriations Committee on July 14, 2005 in the Full Appropriations Committee.