Democrat: Transportation bill unraveled in House because of Amtrak cut

“Cutting Amtrak’s budget by 21 percent for operations and 34 percent for capital and debt service is one of the reasons the Republicans could not find Republican votes to pass their own fiscal year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill,” Holmes Norton wrote in a blog on her website.

“Republicans created cuts that even Republicans could not stomach,” she continued. "No wonder this has brought a backlash within their own party against a pattern of deep cuts on top of the sequester this year.”

Amtrak has traditionally received about $1 billion from the federal government since its inception in 1971.

Holmes Norton said Republicans underestimated how popular the rail service is with their constituents.
“How embarrassing – Republicans forcing Republicans to pull a Republican bill – and here’s why: Amtrak is vital to 46 states and D.C., carries 31 million passengers every year, and employs 20,000 people, 200 of them D.C. residents, in good, middle-class jobs,” she wrote.

Holmes Norton said the GOP should be increasing the amount of funding Congress gives to Amtrak.

“Americans are flocking to Amtrak,” she wrote. “Virtually every month, Amtrak keeps scoring record ridership. This means that Amtrak recovers almost 90 percent of its operating costs from ticket sales and other revenue that it produces. Amtrak ought to be rewarded, not cut by Congress, because no passenger railroad in the world is totally unsubsidized.”

"Congress provides funding mainly for capital costs, while Amtrak does the heavy lifting for passengers and cargo,” she continued. “Amtrak is our national railroad. Yet we have let many nations around the world get generations ahead of us on high-speed rail, while we have zero. Republicans miscalculated. Americans will not tolerate a budget that drives Amtrak off the tracks.”