Amtrak Advocates Halt Vote on “Kill Amtrak” Bill
November 9, 2023
House vote on H.R. 4820 delayed indefinitely. Anti-National Network amendment overwhelmingly defeated.
Thanks to a concerted effort by passenger train advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives has indefinitely delayed a vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2024 (H.R. 4820), which would’ve slashed Amtrak funding by 64 percent, threatening intercity passenger rail services across the nation.
To everyone who joined in the campaign, whether through the Rail Passengers’ advocacy platform or through another organization: THANK YOU! We were able to get hundreds of messages and calls to House Members during the crucial period when the bill was being debated on the floor of the House. America’s passengers are in your debt.
Halting this vote is a big deal. However, passengers won’t be in the clear until a sustainable transportation budget is passed into law. Fortunately, the Senate passed a bipartisan funding bill earlier this month by a vote of 82 to 15, and it includes strong levels of funding for Amtrak, passenger rail, and transit.
Rail Passengers will continue to work to advance this bipartisan legislation into law, and keep an eye on the House to ensure that H.R. 4820 stays dead.
Northeastern Republicans Prove Crucial in Halting Vote
While much of the negotiations took place behind the scenes, it appears that the work done by a cadre of Northeastern Republicans proved decisive in halting a vote on final passage of H.R. 4820. Republican Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Marc Molinaro (NY), Mike Lawler (NY), Andrew Garbarino (NY), and Nick LaLota (NY) all sponsored amendments that protested cuts to rail programs (Midwestern Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska also cosponsored a pro-Amtrak amendment that was ultimately ruled out of order by the House Rules Committee). These amendments were bundled together with other “non-controversial” amendments and adopted by a voice vote.
This block of Republican Congressman would have been enough to kill the bill; with razor thin margins, House leadership could only afford to lose five Republican votes. While we may never know the full story, the decision by these Congressman to stand up for passengers in their district may well have been the crucial factor in forcing the House Majority to pull H.R. 4820 from the floor. America’s passengers are in their debt, as well.
Amendment Demonstrates House Support for Amtrak’s National Network
During the floor debates on H.R. 4820, the House did have a recorded vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) to eliminate all funding to Amtrak’s National Network. This amendment would’ve made certain what H.R. 4820 only threatened: ending all State-Supported and Long-Distance train service across the U.S.
Fortunately, thanks to the work of passenger advocates, this amendment was overwhelmingly rejected by a vote of 297 ‘noes’ to 125 ‘ayes’. Critically, 91 Republicans joined with Democrats to defeat this amendment, showing that there is a broad level of support for Amtrak service among the rank and file House Republicans.
Please join Rail Passengers in saying “THANK YOU!” to the Representatives who voted no on the Perry amendment (H.Amdt.616).
"The National Association of Railroad Passengers has done yeoman work over the years and in fact if it weren’t for NARP, I'd be surprised if Amtrak were still in possession of as a large a network as they have. So they've done good work, they're very good on the factual case."
Robert Gallamore, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University and former Federal Railroad Administration official, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University
November 17, 2005, on The Leonard Lopate Show (with guest host Chris Bannon), WNYC New York.