Never let a crisis go to waste, no matter how tasteless it is.
Via The Hill:
Democrats on Wednesday bashed a fiscal 2016 spending bill that would cut funding to Amtrak, just hours after one of its trains crashed north of Philadelphia.
“I do hope we can keep the accident in mind [during today’s markup],” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said about the derailed Amtrak train. “Cutting the funding drastically does not help improve the services at Amtrak.”
At least seven people died as a result of the derailment, which also left several hundred injured, authorities said.
“We cannot meet tomorrow’s challenges by slashing investments in TIGER, Amtrak and air traffic modernization,” Lowey added.
The GOP-sponsored transportation and housing bill contains $1.13 billion for Amtrak for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. That’s down from roughly $1.4 billion that Congress appropriated for 2015.
A spokeswoman for Republicans on the Appropriations Committee pointed out that those amounts are for infrastructure and construction and do not cover operating costs or safety. The aide said the Federal Rail Administration would receive nearly $187 million for safety and operations for next year, which is the same amount as 2015.
Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), the ranking member of the subcommittee that produced the bill, said the measure is “totally inadequate.”
The measure “does not provide adequate funding to address the capital needs required for safety.”
Several Democrats offered amendments that would boost funding to Amtrak, but Republicans blocked the proposals from being wrapped inside the measure. They would have busted spending caps.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said Congress “failed” passengers who traveled on the Amtrak train Tuesday night.
“Last night we failed them. We failed to invest in their safety. We failed to make their safety our priority,” he said. “We are divesting from America in this committee…it defies the interests of the American people.”
Later on, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said he was “disappointed” by Israel’s statement for suggesting that underfunding Amtrak caused the accident.
“Don’t use this tragedy in that way. It was beneath you,” Simpson said.