New House majority leader promises to block Calif. railway funding

Greg Nash

Newly installed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) promised on Monday that he would "do all that I can to ensure not one dollar of federal funding goes to boondoggles like [California's] high-speed rail."

McCarthy and other Republicans in Washington and California have long been opposed to the controversial California high-speed rail project, which has received more than $3 billion from the Obama administration since 2009.

But McCarthy was recently elevated to the No. 2 position in the House Republican caucus following the defeat of former GOP Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in his bid for re-election earlier this year.

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The newly-minted No. 2 Republican in the House tweeted the message about blocking funding for the California high-speed railway with an article from the Wall Street Journal about troubles with the financing of the construction of the project beyond the federal government's contributions.

The California high-speed railway has been the centerpiece of a push by the Obama administration to spur the development of a national network of trains the president said could eventually grow to rival the interstate highway system.

The national rail plan faced staunch opposition from Republican governors in states like Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin, which all rejected money from the 2009 economic stimulus package that was intended to spur rail development.

The administration responded to the high-profile rejections by redirecting most of the money that was turned down to California, pinning its hopes of seeing the construction of a functional high-speed railway before President Obama leaves office largely on the Golden State.

California leaders' initial plans called trains to run on an 800-mile route at speeds as high as 220 miles per hour. Republicans, however, have complained about rising construction costs and questioned whether the rail line would attract enough riders to justify building it because it's initial leg would not run all the way between the two major cities. 

California transportation officials who are in charge of shepherding the railway plan have come under fire since cost estimates rose from $33 billion to $98 billion in 2011. More recently, critics like McCarthy have said the state does not have the means to come up with its requirement portion of the construction costs to win matching funds that have been promised by the federal government.

House Republicans have sought to deny additional federal money from going to the California high-speed railway in transportation funding debates of late, arguing it would be more effective to concentrate efforts to build high-speed trains on densely populated areas like the northeast.