Senate bill would give Amtrak nearly $1.4 billion

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A Senate bill to fund transportation and housing programs would provide Amtrak with nearly $1.4 billion next year, much more than the amount allocated by the House, according to a summary prepared by the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

The bill, the text of which has not yet been released, contains $289 million for Amtrak operations and $1.1 billion for capital grants to the rail service.

{mosads}Appropriators reported the bill out of subcommittee Tuesday.

Nearly two months after the deadly derailment on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the bill provides an additional $17 million to that route and for reforms to the agency. Several members of the Appropriations panel live along that route.

The House has already passed its version of the measure for fiscal 2016, which included $1.1 billion for Amtrak, down from the roughly $1.4 billion appropriated for 2015.

President Obama had asked Congress to approve $2.5 billion for the rail service.

Just hours after the fatal crash in May, Democratic appropriators in the House were outraged over the cuts to Amtrak and attempted to boost the funding through amendments. GOP leaders, however, warned them that any attempts to breach funding caps would kill the bill.

Overall, the Senate bill provides $55.65 billion in discretionary spending, which is $7 billion below Obama’s budget request.

The Transportation Department would receive $17.78 billion in discretionary funding, which is $17 million below the 2015 level and $3.9 billion below Obama’s request.

The funding is for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, the Highway Trust Fund for infrastructure projects, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration.

The FAA, for example, would receive $16 billion, which is $294 million above the 2015 level and $175 million more than Obama’s request. The GOP-sponsored bill rejects the administration’s proposals for new passenger facility charge fees and transfer authority.

The Housing and Urban Development Department would receive $37.56 billion for next year, which is $2 billion more than current levels and $3 billion less than Obama’s request.

That funding includes rental assistance and programs to address youth homelessness, among other things.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees the bill, said the bill “dramatically cuts” the Public Housing Capital Fund to a 1988 funding level and reduces other programs to historically low levels.

Reed’s office said the bill contains controversial policy provisions, including one that would exempt a highway in Texas from federal truck weight limits and one that would allow public-private partnerships to be exempt from criteria the Transportation Department uses to evaluate good use of taxpayer dollars.

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