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Senate GOP Killed $2 Billion for Amtrak Repairs in 2011

May 15, 2015

While investigators are working to understand the causes of the deadly Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia, the Republicans' best and brightest are adding insult to injury. On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted along party lines to slash $260 million from Amtrak funding. Meanwhile, David Frum, the man who brought you "the Axis of Evil," brought some evil of his own to Twitter:

Awful that America's railway lines are in such bad shape. If only the country had committed $800 billion to a massive stimulus program.

Leave aside for the moment that over 40 percent of President Obama's 2009 stimulus program was delivered in the form of tax cuts. In 2011, every Senate Republican voted to filibuster Obama's American Jobs Act and its $2 billion in repair and renovation money for Amtrak.
As you may recall, that $447 billion package was designed to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, especially in the lagging construction and public sectors, through large scale investment in infrastructure. In section subtitled "Immediate Transportation Infrastructure Investments," the American Jobs Act featured this nugget for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, also known as Amtrak:

Subsection (e) makes available $2 billion to Amtrak for the repair, rehabilitation, and upgrade of Amtrak's assets and infrastructure, including rolling stock.

As ThinkProgress explained, that was just one component of a much bigger infrastructure push in the AJA:

One of the main elements of the president's job plan is a $50 BILLION investment to rebuild America's crumbling roads, bridges, transit systems, and airports. In addition to funding vital projects that will help keep America competitive, these investments will put thousands of people back to work in each and every state.

But on October 11, 2011, every Republican Senator said no in a filibuster that was joined by Democrats Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE). And what did these 49 Senators succeed in blocking? As ThinkProgress ("5 Ways Republicans Have Sabotaged Job Growth") summed it up in 2012:

Last October, Senate Republicans killed a jobs bill proposed by President Obama that would have pumped $447 billion into the economy. Multiple economic analysts predicted the bill would add around two million jobs and hailed it as defense against a double-dip recession. The Congressional Budget Office also scored it as a net deficit reducer over ten years, and the American public supported the bill.

In the wake of the GOP filibuster, President Obama vowed to bring the separate pieces of the American Jobs Act to the floor for a vote. While the two-year Social Security payroll tax holiday was eventually passed into law, pretty much everything else-- $175 billion in new spending on roads, school repairs and other infrastructure as well as jobless aid and help to local governments to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers--died at the hands of Congressional Republicans. Nevertheless, Obama has used every State of the Union address since to make the case. As he put in the 2015 SOTU in January:

"Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure--modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this."

Not anymore. Republicans can't even vote to fund our nation's highways by raising the gas tax that hasn't changed since 1993. Apparently opposed to the "public" in "public transportation, Republicans have repeatedly voted to kill badly needed and long overdue infrastructure spending. And as Americans saw in the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse, the I-5 bridge collapse in Washington State or the Amtrak derailment that killed 47 in Mobile, Alabama, killing infrastructure spending can kill.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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