Senate Committee Approves $1.45 Billion for Amtrak
Lawmakers Oppose White House Effort to Gut Railroad
WASHINGTON (July 21, 2005) – The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved legislation that would provide $1.45 billion for Amtrak for fiscal 2006 – opposing White House efforts to gut Amtrak and turn over its operations to the states. The fiscal 2006 transportation spending bill now heads to the floor for Senate passage. The House earlier this year approved its own transportation spending bill that called for $1.2 billion for Amtrak. Once the Senate passes its version – perhaps by next week — lawmakers from the two chambers will have to settle on a compromise spending total and send that bill to the president to be signed into law. “I am pleased we were able to secure this vital funding. $1.45 billion is significant, but this is really just the bare bones of what Amtrak needs,” said Biden. “This money will keep the trains rolling in the short-term, but we’ve got to get Amtrak the capital and operating funds it needs to operate a safe, convenient, and modern national passenger rail system. Millions of Americans depend on Amtrak to get where they are going. These people deserve for their government to get serious about taking steps to protect them.” “After the president proposed earlier this year to gut Amtrak, I’m happy that cooler heads have prevailed and that the Senate has decided to provide Amtrak with the money it needs to continue its operations nationwide,” said Carper. “Given how tight the budget is this year, the total provided in the Senate bill is probably the best we can hope for. The lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee – Republican and Democrat alike – deserve a lot of credit for standing up to the White House and saying its proposal was unacceptable and irresponsible. It’s not a done deal yet, however, and we have to remain vigilant until the president signs an Amtrak budget into law. In the meantime, I hope Congress can start to tackle the very difficult issue of Amtrak’s long-term health and the future of passenger rail in the United States.” As London experienced a second round of bomb attacks Thursday, Carper and Biden again urged Congress to find additional money to put into rail security programs to keep Amtrak passengers safe. “These attacks are yet another reminder of the threat that we face here at home. I wonder how many reminders we need before our government will take action. The Bush Administration is highly irresponsible if it does not do more to protect Americans who depend on passenger rail and mass transit,” said Biden. “In light of the second wave of attacks on the London Underground, I hope that Congress will put the same level of attention to finding the funds required to keep Amtrak passengers secure and prevent similar attacks here,” said Carper. Last week, the Senate defeated an amendment, supported by Senators Biden and Carper, to the fiscal 2006 homeland securing spending bill that would have provided an additional $1.1 billion for transit security and $265 million for passenger rail. The homeland security spending bill, which passed the Senate last week, would provide only $100 million for transit security, $50 million less than the current budget.