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Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, THE JUDICIARY, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 29, 2005)

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AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. KNOLLENBERG

Mr. KNOLLENBERG. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. ROTHMAN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this amendment.

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Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the LaTourette-Oberstar-Menendez amendment which would restore funding for AMTRAK.

As a member of the Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, and District of Columbia Subcommittee, I want to thank Chairman KNOLLENBERG and Ranking Member OLVER for their work on this legislation.

I also want to acknowledge both the Majority and Minority staff for their dedication to the difficult task of crafting this legislation that incorporates such a broad spectrum of different agencies of our government.

Chairman KNOLLENBERG was given a difficult task with what I believe was an inadequate allocation. I have appreciated his willingness to work with both sides of the aisle to make sure that all members of the subcommittee had input into this final product. Mr. KNOLLENBERG has done the best job he could with what he was given.

I especially want to thank him for his help with Teterboro Airport in my District.

Unfortunately, though, I disagree with the allocation for AMTRAK in this bill. That is why I support this amendment.

The $550 million provided for AMTRAK will certainly bring an end to passenger rail service as we know it.

Furthermore, this bill only funds the Capital Improvement Program for the Northeast Corridor line, which runs from Washington DC's Union Station to Boston's South Station, at $50 million.

This amount is hundreds of millions of dollars below what is needed to keep the Northeast Corridor in good repair.

Just maintaining the tracks and making needed safety improvements in my home State of New Jersey will cost $90 million. If AMTRAK where to uphold their agreement with the State of New Jersey to provide matching funds of $45 million for track maintenance, that would only leave $5 million left for the maintenance of the rest of the Northeast Corridor line.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment to restore funding for AMTRAK to continue the stated goal of this bill to provide viable passenger rail service in the United States.

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AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. KENNEDY OF MINNESOTA

Mr. KENNEDY of Minnesota. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. ROTHMAN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

(Mr. ROTHMAN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. ROTHMAN. Mr. Chairman, first allow me to thank my subcommittee chairman and his staff for being so extraordinarily cooperative and bipartisan in word and deed when it came to the needs of everyone on our subcommittee, Republican and Democrat. We on our side of the aisle believe there was not a sufficient budgetary allocation to our Subcommittee on Transportation. But within the confines of what we were given under the budget resolution, I believe that our chairman and his staff, my ranking member, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Olver), and his staff put together a wonderful bill, which needed help on Amtrak, which both sides of the aisle fixed about an hour ago.

So it does pain me somewhat to find out that there is an effort now to undo the solution that would have helped us keep intact a national rail system. A national rail system. Is that some wild idea that we just have here in America? No. They have it all over the world. All over Europe. China is investing tens of billions of dollars in their rail system, their infrastructure. Japan. Talk about rail system. They have the bullet trains. Where we here in the United States of America are struggling along with trains whose brake systems failed on these antiquated rail beds, et cetera. We are the greatest country in the world, and we are not keeping up with our infrastructure needs. That is wrong.

They say we are falling behind in education to all kinds of countries, India, China, other countries around the world, because we are not investing in the education infrastructure needs. And now there is this amendment to take away money that would have helped us try to keep some of our transportation infrastructure.

My colleagues, if you cannot move people, if you cannot move goods around your country, you are going to be a second-rate country. And how we got to be the first-rate country that we are is because our parents and grandparents did what it took to build an infrastructure, a world-class infrastructure of transportation. Now the majority party wants to destroy our national transportation infrastructure when it comes to passenger rail?

We have an airline system that the majority wants to subsidize, and has subsidized. So has the minority. Both sides of the aisle. We subsidize the roads and highways, superhighways all over America. Why can we not then subsidize passenger rail in America as they subsidize passenger rail all over the world?

Because they want to privatize it. They want to privatize Social Security. They want to privatize rail. They want to privatize the Federal Government workforce. They want to privatize Medicare prescription drugs. They want to privatize the IRS. Did Members know that? They are contracting out the IRS to collect money from taxpayers. Private companies they are hiring, when the solution is simply: Give our chairman the power, the ability to reform our system. Maybe we need a separate capital account to maintain the rail beds and improve the stations, as well as an operating account. Make the reforms necessary, but we cannot do it on the cheap.

It is like you have three houses: One for airplanes, one for roads, and one for rail, and people live in those houses.

The house for roads, we pay the mortgage and provide money to fix the roof and keep the sewer system alive.

The same with airlines. We pay for the mortgage and keep the roof up and all of structures and systems intact.

But when it comes to the rail, the house of rail that the Republicans want to build, yes, they will pay most of the mortgage, but not all. But no money for the roof that is falling down. No money for the water system that is decaying and bringing lead-filled water into the home.

They say, if you managed your home budget better, rail system, that would be enough. Yes, maybe the rail system does not manage their money 100 percent as well as we would like, and that is why we need reforms; but we have to give them the money to fix the roof. We have to give them the money to fix the trains, fix the stations, and fix the rail beds, and have enough money to operate the trains safely, especially when there are threats of terrorism facing our railroads, and especially given the real world possibility of horrible incidents occurring.

The CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Rothman) has expired.

(By unanimous consent, Mr. Rothman was allowed to proceed for 1 additional minute.)

Mr. ROTHMAN. Mr. Chairman, we need three different kinds of national transportation systems in America: Airlines; highways for cars and trucks; and rail for freight and passenger service.

That is only if we want to be a first-class country. That is only if we want to be a first-class country, because we could give up that status and be a second-rate country, and then this amendment would fit right in. Just toss our national rail transportation network into the garbage. We do not need it because we want to be a second-class country.

Not on my watch, not without my objection. Reform, yes. We have Members on both sides of this aisle, people of goodwill and intentions who want reform, but we cannot starve the patient and expect it to live and run a marathon. We cannot tell the homeowner, We will give you almost as much as you need for your mortgage, but nothing for the roof falling down. It cannot be done.

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