Rail caucus: Trains are 'the new Erie Canal'

Slaughter's enthusiasm was shared by Florida Rep. Corrine Brown (D), whose state's governor just killed a proposed railway connecting Tampa and Orlando by rejecting $2.4 billion the federal government offered as a means to help build it.

The decision by Republican Gov. Rick Scott to turn down the rail money was "stuck on stupid," Brown said.

"We had a temporary setback, but we will have high-speed [rail] in Florida," Brown said, noting that she first began pushing for railways in her state in 1980 under then-Gov. Bob Graham.

Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz (D) shared the sentiment as well. Walz said his district includes the famous Mayo Clinic, which he said achieved its notoriety in healthcare in part because patients from Chicago could ride trains over to Rochester, Minn.

"We will never pay off this nation's debt if we don't grown our economy and unleash innovation, and high-speed rail is a part of that," Walz said, directly addressing criticisms from conservatives that the railways are too expensive.

The lone senator in the Rail Caucus, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), said America was falling behind other countries by not building trains.

"There is a global high-speed rail race under way and the United States is still stuck at the station," Lautenberg said.

Lautenberg has signaled that his state will apply for the rail money Florida did not want. Meanwhile, local municipal officials in Florida are looking at forming a coalition to compete for the money without Scott's approval.