Happening Now

Rail passengers help beat back anti-train amendments!

July 31, 2013

Written By Sean Jeans Gail

First things first. I want to say “thank you” to each and every single NARP Member and passenger rail supporter who has taken time to reach out to their Representative or Senator to defend trains. And thank you for putting up with the deluge of emails that we’ve sent in an attempt to give you the most up-to-date information!

It is because of your efforts that the House overwhelmingly defeated Representative Paul Broun’s (R-GA) amendments to zero out Amtrak’s capital grant on a voice vote, with members from both sides speaking up in support of the many benefits of passenger trains. (The other anti-Amtrak amendments failed to gather enough momentum to even come to the floor for a vote.)

It is because of your calls efforts that the Senate is rallying against the Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) amendment to eliminate food and beverage on Amtrak trains (with a possibility that Flake’s amendment won’t even make it to the Senate floor for a vote).

That’s the good news.

The bad news is Congress continues to be mired in dysfunction. House leaders have pulled the transportation and housing appropriations bill from the floor, unable to marshal enough Republican votes to pass the Republican-created bill. Under the bill, even WITHOUT the Broun amendment, Amtrak would have been slashed by a third and high performance rail grants eliminated, among other cuts.

Its severe cuts to transportation and housing programs guaranteed zero Democratic votes, while a combination of about 40 Republicans apparently were set to vote “no,” including moderates who rejected the bill as too extreme and fiscal ultraconservatives who tend to oppose all appropriations. House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) reacted to today’s action (or, rather, inaction) this way: “With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted three months ago. Thus I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration—and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts—must be brought to an end.”

So, even if the Senate passes its bill (scheduled for a Thursday vote), there won’t be any clear path to make that bill into law. This sets up an uncertain future with the next key dates the start of the fiscal year on October 1 and the next debate about raising the debt ceiling later in the fall.

However, NARP will not allow these obstacles to stop us. The past few weeks, and the all-too-numerous attempts to eliminate Amtrak service, have shown that our work is more necessary than ever.

So thank you for your support of our mission. NARP will never stop protecting the foundation of trains in America. And we will not stop until the system Americans need is fully operational, connecting communities large and small, serving present and future passengers, in every part of the country.