Senate Passes Comprehensive Rail and Transit Security Bill

Biden, Carper Urge House to Pass Crucial Measure

WASHINGTON (Oct. 4, 2004) – The Senate late Friday for the first time passed comprehensive rail and transit security legislation, but failure on the part of the House so far to take action on similar legislation threatens to keep the crucial bill from becoming law this year. Late Friday, the Senate passed two bills – one to deal with rail security, the other for transit security. The rail security legislation would provide nearly $1.2 billion to help protect passenger and freight railroads from potential terrorist attacks, as well as repair Amtrak’s network of underground tunnels. The transit bill would provide nearly $3.5 billion for transit security needs in metropolitan areas around the country. A group of senators, including Delaware Senators Joe Biden and Tom Carper, had initially intended to offer the rail and transit bills to comprehensive intelligence reform legislation currently before the Senate. But in bicameral discussions, the House leadership suggested it would not accept the amendments as part of the intelligence bill. Instead of attaching the bills to the intelligence legislation, then, the Senate unanimously passed the rail and transit measures as stand-alone pieces of legislation – demonstrating the wide support the two bills share in the Senate. It was also the first time the Senate passed rail security legislation after more than three years of work by Sens. Biden and Carper. Biden and Carper lamented the fact that the House leadership has given no indication it would agree to the rail and transit security measures and urged them to reconsider taking them up and passing them before Congress recesses at the end of this week. “More than three years after 9/11, the Congress has failed to take effective action to protect passengers on America’s inter-city passenger rail system. Passage of rail security legislation on Friday signals that the Senate recognizes the problem, but because there is no parallel activity in the House, and no call for action by the Administration, this gesture will not make passengers and cargos on our rail system any safer,” said Senator Biden. “It will not become law. The 9/11 Commission has recommended action, not words, to protect America’s rail system. This legislation should be part of the Intelligence Reform Bill, enacting the Commission’s recommendations, which will become law this year.” “The Senate understands that we have to do more to protect our passenger and freight rail lines, but somehow that message hasn’t gotten across to the other side of the Capitol,” said Senator Carper. “Almost two hundred people died after a terrorist attack on rush-hour trains in Madrid earlier this year. But we still aren’t doing enough to make Amtrak passengers safer or secure the valuable freight that moves along our rail lines each and every day. I would urge the House to take up this crucial bill and not let this opportunity to enact meaningful homeland security legislation pass us by yet again.”