Good news from the floor of the US House of Representatives: the Nadler amendment described yesterday was approved by the full House and is now part of the stimulus. The Nadler amendment would:
According to Nadler's floor speech, 1.5 billion will go to the transit capital formula program, which goes to all states, and 1.5 billion to the new starts program. The AFL-CIO and environmental organizations will "score" this amendment, he said, meaning they'll factor members' votes on this issue into their scorecard ratings for each Representative. Since it was a voice vote, though, we don't know who opposed the amendment, making that impossible.
John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the Tranportation Committee and the House's leading pro-transit Republican, called this "an amendment we have to support." The Appropriations committee, he said, "took one of the most important parts out: that's the rail and transit." Transit infrastructure creates jobs, he said. "Support the Nadler amendment!"
Transportation Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) said, "we heard very clearly from the major transit agencies in this counrty. They have options for buses. They have options for railcars that could be exercised within days." Manufacturers can ramp up production and create jobs all across the county.
Apparently members of Congress reported "phones ringing off the hook" about the Nadler amendment. Americans are fired up about passenger rail, and so is the House - which also defeated a ridiculous amendment from Arizona Republican Jeff Flake that would have eliminated all Amtrak funding in the stimulus.
It's true that HSR is not directly funded through the Nadler amendment, but its victory is very important for us anyway. HSR wins when passenger rail wins. The more lines that are built, the more people that ride rails, the more Americans who come to see the benefit of passenger trains and who will support efforts to fund them. Along those lines the Nadler amendment victory also shows that passenger rail is a political winner on Capitol Hill, and that can only help our cause when it comes to actual HSR funding.
Next up is the Senate, where we're likely going to have to fight this battle again. And this is where we will need Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein in particular to step up big for passenger rail.
UPDATE: Corinne Brown's response to the moronic Jeff Flake, who argued that Amtrak shouldn't be funded because after nearly 40 years it hasn't shown a profit:
There is no form of transportation that pays for itself. None whatsoever. Whether we're talking about rail, airlines, cars, none of that. We subsidize all of that.
I love it when someone talks sense like that. The Overhead Wire has more.