House Passes Amtrak Funding

The House recently passed Amtrak reauthorization legislation, The Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act H.R.749, authorizing nearly $8 billion in funding for Amtrak that would expire in 2019.  The 316-101 vote badly divided Republicans, as all of the no votes came from firebrand conservatives. The Bill wouldn’t have passed except for the support of all House Democrats.

The conservative group Heritage Action for America pressured Republicans to oppose the Bill.

TCU lobbied hard to convince our friends on both sides of the isle to reject an amendment that would have zeroed out all Amtrak funding and destroyed thousands of good middle-class Amtrak jobs. By voting against the McClintock amendment, members of Congress rejected the notion that the United States should not have a national passenger railroad.

The White House issued a statement supporting the Bill but called for increased spending for Passenger Rail. The Senate must now approve the measure in order to reach President Obama’s desk.

The House Bill authorizes about $982 million per year for Amtrak’s long distance service and another $470 million annually for the Northeast Corridor. The bill sets another $300 million per year for capital improvements on Amtrak routes in the rest of country and about $24 million per year for the company’s inspector general.

Amtrak’s subsidies have been hotly contested in Congress in recent years. Congressman Mica of Florida pushed to privatize service on the Northeast, arguing that nongovernment entities could operate trains more efficiently then Amtrak. TCU was able to help beat back the Mica amendment in Committee.

“This nation has significant transportation challenges ahead, and Amtrak looks forward to working with leadership to ensure intercity passenger rail will keep people and the economy moving,” said Amtrak in a statement.

Amtrak employees can take comfort in the fact House Republicans did not drastically cut Amtrak’s funding in light of budget constraints imposed by the majority.

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