- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A House panel on Wednesday voted down an amendment that would have provided Amtrak with the $2.45 billion President Obama had requested in his budget, with Democrats chiding their Republican colleagues for voting against the measure with the memory of Tuesday’s deadly crash that killed six people and injured scores of others still fresh in lawmakers’ minds.

“It is deeply troubling that my Republican colleagues defeated an amendment to fully fund Amtrak just hours after this tragic rail crash,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, New York Democrat and the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee. “While we do not yet know the exact cause of yesterday’s accident in Philadelphia, we do know that starving Amtrak of funding will inhibit safety upgrades, training, and capital improvements. Our continued failure to invest in road and rail infrastructure is not just unwise — it is plainly a public safety hazard.”

The fiscal 2016 spending bill for transportation, housing and urban development provides $1.14 billion for Amtrak — $251 million less than the 2015 level and $1.31 billion less than what Mr. Obama had requested.

“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,” said Rep. David Price, North Carolina Democrat. “The majority’s shortsighted, draconian budget cuts stand in the way of the investments that a great country must make.”

According to Politico, Rep. Mike Simpson, Idaho Republican, admonished Democrats for trying to tie Tuesday’s crash to the spending debate “when you have no idea, no idea what caused this accident. … Don’t use this tragedy in that way. It was beneath you.”

Around the time that members were weighing the measure, the Agenda Project Action Fund, an advocacy group, also sent out an email missive urging people to call the offices of Rep. Hal Rogers, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Speaker John A. Boehner “to demand that they table ANY cuts” to Amtrak’s budget “until we know exactly what happened.”

“As you read this the House Appropriations Committee is considering a bill that will cut more than $250 million from Amtrak,” the email read. “Money that could be spent upgrading tracks, train cars, and technology — money that might prevent the kind of tragedy that happened last night. Clearly, this is not the time for irresponsible Republican budget cuts.”

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