Pawlenty OK with plan to privatize Amtrak

House Republicans, who have long fought against Congress' subsidization of Amtrak, are now arguing that rail passengers in the northeast, where Amtrak does most of its business, would be better served if the trains were operated by someone else.

"The time has come to deregulate America's passenger rail system," Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, wrote in an op-ed Thursday in The Hill.

"By focusing on projects that make sense, leveraging private-sector investment and opening the door to public-private partnerships, we can do more with less and finally take our nation in a new direction," he said.

Democrats have criticized the plan, comparing it to Republican efforts to make changes to Medicare.

"Republicans are picking up steam in their rush to dismantle another highly popular and successful program," the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W. Va) wrote in a competing op-ed in The Hill. "Next stop on the Elimination Express? Amtrak." 

Other presidential candidates like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. John Huntsman haven't yet weighed in on the plan. Pawlenty dubbed his economic plan, which included stopping Amtrak service, "A Better Deal."