Senate passes Amtrak long-term funding provision; Bush threatens veto

An amendment giving long term funding to Amtrak passed in the U.S. Senate on November 3. Amendment 2360 to S. 1932, the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005, was passed 93-6. S. 1932 passed by a vote of 52-47.

The amendment was introduced by Senators Trent Lott (R-MS) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). The amendment is the same as S. 1516, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2005.

However, President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation. The administration objected to a provision that deletes a Medicare fund the White House believes ensures that private health-care plans take part in the federal health care program.

"This is an important step to securing long-term funding for our nation's passenger rail system," BLET National President Don M. Hahs said. "I would like to thank the 93 members of the Senate who voted in favor of this important legislation. They have shown that there is wide bipartisan support for Amtrak, and stood up against the Bush administration."

The following Senators voted against the amendment: James DeMint (R-SC); John Ensign (R-NV); Judd Gregg (R-NH); Jeff Sessions (R-AL); John Sununu (R-NH); and George Voinovich (R-OH).

The Rail Conference is now working the House side to obtain legislation with similar language.

On the same day that the bill was passed, the General Accounting Office released a report on the state of Amtrak's finances. According to the report, Amtrak needs to improve the way it monitors performance and oversees its finances to reach solid financial ground. The GAO recommended that the Transportation Secretary direct the Federal Railroad Administrator to: require Amtrak to submit a plan laying out specifically how it will improve its financial operations; provide Amtrak with direction on how to do so; and monitor the railroad's performance and report to Congress on Amtrak's progress.


© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen