Carper Will Vote for Homeland Security Compromise Despite its Failure to Tackle Threats to Passenger Rail Safety
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Tom Carper announced today he will vote for the compromise legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security despite its missed opportunity to enhance the security of our nation’s passenger rail system. Carper’s measure to include $1.208 billion authorization for rail security and safety measures was included in the bill approved by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on which Carper sits, but was not included in the new compromise. “The fact is that, today, several thousands of riders are on Amtrak trains and hundreds of thousands more use Amtrak’s tracks for their daily commute to work. Securing these facilities and these services is not an issue that can wait,” Carper said. “As the intelligence community has already warned, the risks to America’s railroads are real and exist as we speak. We have a responsibility to act to protect our people and our nation.” The FBI warned in late October that they had evidence that al-Qaeda “has considered directly targeting U.S. passenger trains” and that “operatives may try a variety of attack strategies, such as destroying key rail bridges and sections of track to cause derailments or targeting hazardous material containers.” While the bill no longer takes steps to tackle this threat, Carper agreed to vote for the measure, having worked towards the creation of the Department since Senator Joe Lieberman first suggested it in the Governmental Affairs Committee six months ago. “I believe that we need to create a strong Department of Homeland Security that brings together under one roof the various federal agencies charged with preventing and responding to terrorist attacks,” Carper said. “We have a responsibility to act to protect our people and our nation, and this moves us closer to that goal.” Carper’s rail security amendment, which had passed the Senate Government Affairs Committee in a roll-call vote included grants to strengthen security at stations, bridges, tunnels, tracks, yards and facilities nationwide; grants for life safety improvements to 6 New York Amtrak tunnels built in 1910, the Baltimore and Potomac Amtrak tunnel built in 1872, and the Washington, D.C. Union Station Amtrak tunnels built in 1904 under the Supreme Court and House and Senate Office Buildings; and provided the option for the repair and returning to service of Amtrak passenger cars and locomotives to ensure adequate capacity in the case of a national emergency similar to the aviation shutdown that occurred on 9-11-01.