House transportation bill cuts too deep for some Republicans

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A debate over Amtrak funding derailed the House of Representative’s fiscal 2024 transportation bill Tuesday as opponents, many of them Republicans from the northeast, criticized the bill’s deep cuts to the train agency.

The House was set to vote Tuesday on the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development measure, one of 12 appropriation bills that GOP leaders hope to pass this month.

Leaders pulled the legislation after a group of lawmakers remained opposed to the $1.6 billion, or 64%, reduction to Amtrak’s 2023 enacted levels. Their slim majority means Republicans can afford to lose only a few votes without Democrats’ support.

It is not clear when the bill will come back up for a vote. Congress has until Nov. 17 to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner warned that the House transportation bill would hurt train service nationally.

Amtrak

The debate follows the Biden administration’s announcement Monday of $16.4 billion for Amtrak and dozens of rail infrastructure projects across the Northeast Corridor, one of the nation’s busiest rail corridors, in grants from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The IIJA funding is dedicated to specific projects and not to Amtrak operations or maintenance.

Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner warned that the House bill would “severely reduce our service nationally and impact thousands of jobs.”

The bill includes $90.2 billion in discretionary funds for transportation and HUD, which is 8.7% below President Biden’s budget request, according to a Republican summary. The bill “eliminates several programs and makes deep cuts to others, especially those that received large amounts in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” the summary said.

The cuts to Amtrak are “shortsighted, and cannot be ameliorated by advance appropriations from the IIJA: those funds are limited to specific categories of capital investments” said a bipartisan group of representatives in an Oct. 2 letter to House Republican leadership. “This means fewer trains, longer delays and increased travel costs for hardworking Americans who depend on Amtrak for intercity and regional train travel for commuting, work or leisure.”

The bill also slashes all funding for the RAISE or Mega discretionary grant programs, deeply reduces funds for transit Capital Investment Grants, and includes no funding for the controversial California High Speed Rail project.

The Senate passed its THUD bill last week as part of a three-bill package of fiscal 2024 appropriations.

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