Amtrak: 25 percent of new hires will be veterans by 2015

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Amtrak said it would work with groups that focus on placing military veterans into jobs, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring our Heroes program, the Wounded Warrior Project, RecruitMilitary and Army PaYS to find veterans to hire for its open positions.

The announcement won praise on Wednesday from lawmakers in both chambers.

"As I've always said, if you want to help a vet, hire a vet," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a statement. "Thankfully, companies like Amtrak are doing their part in the fight to reduce our veterans' unemployment rate. It is my hope that other smart businesses will follow Amtrak's lead."

"As a member of the Veteran Affairs Committee and Chairman of the Veterans Jobs Caucus, I am proud to support Amtrak's new hiring initiative," the chairman of the House committee that oversees rail programs, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), added. "Amtrak has always been a leading employer of our nation's veterans and I can think of no better partner to help answer the challenge presented by veteran unemployment and no better symbol than this new locomotive."

Denham, who has been critical of other rail programs in the past, will chair a hearing of the House Transportation Committee's rail panel on Thursday.

The committee is scheduled to begin working on a new Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA). The current PRIIA bill, which authorizes funding for Amtrak, among other things, is set to expire in September. 

Lawmakers in both parties have identified extending the rail funding bill a priority for 2013, and jockeying has already begun between supporters and opponents of long-distance railways like Amtrak.