Tragedy struck this week when an Amtrak train derailed while traveling through the city of Philadelphia en route to New York City. Ever since the crash, which has claimed at least seven lives and left hundreds injured, some critically, the media has been a-buzz with talk of infrastructure spending increases. On all the major networks and morning talk shows, the keywords were “infrastructure spending.” Usually with the word “increased” preceding it.
But the most deaf Congress in history apparently didn’t hear a word of it. Seven dead and hundreds injured didn’t even make them pause. When offered the chance to increase funding to Amtrak, they declined. Talk about dancing on someone’s grave, this congress just did Riverdance all over the dead and injured in Philadelphia today when they defeated a proposal in committee to add a mere one billion, peanuts in today’s budget terms, to improve the Amtrak infrastructure.
The proposal, offered by Congressman Chaka Fatah, a democrat who represents the Philadelphia area, asked for the following;
- 550 million to bring Amtrak’s North East Corridor infrastructure and equipment into a “state of good repair.”
- $225 million to replace obsolete equipment in state-supported routes and help states pay for expenses.
- $475 million to improve Amtrak’s backbone rail facilities and improve positive train control, technology used to override human error and stop trains in potential danger.
Fatah offered these words when offering the amendment to the GOP dominated appropriations committee;
“We don’t know the circumstances of this accident, we don’t know what caused it, but we do know if we don’t invest in the capital infrastructure of our country there will be future accidents. There will be people who you represent, or in your districts, who will be facing the same circumstances that the people who are in hospitals in my district are facing now.”
The measure was defeated by a vote of 21-30.
That’s not all, folks. Beyond not delaying the vote while the dead get buried and defeating a measure to make up for lost funding in the past, the house committee also cut a large chunk of Amtrak’s existing budget even more.
As IYON’s own Michael Hayne reported:
That cozy and greedy bubble in which they reside must not be getting any of the gazillion news stories regarding the wreckage from Tuesday night’s seven-fatality derailment in Philadelphia, as the House Appropriations Committee voted to screw Amtrak almost a fifth less than its typical $1.4 billion share. The panel defeated Democratic amendments meant to restore or boost the funding.”
Tonight another voice stepped up to the mic.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) knows this issue perhaps better than anyone. Just this week he was testifying across the country to garner support for increased spending both on Amtrak specifically and infrastructure nationwide. Rendell, looking haggard after obviously working tirelessly as he always does during a crisis, didn’t have the time nor the patience to mince words when it came to what he saw as a totally irresponsible mark up by the house of representatives today.
“Pathetic, just pathetic.” Rendell blurted out when asked about the defeated vote. He later continued “… these S.O.B.’s – and that’s all I can call em, these S.O.B.’s didn’t even have the decency to table the vote!”
But Rendell didn’t just come on to insult people, he came to educate. Rendell went on to describe how beyond the rudeness, the GOP arguments are “b.s.” Arguments like the phony caps on spending – that republicans have no problem busting right through when it is their pet projects, like massive defense contracts and defense spending. He goes on to give a clinic on how things should and would be, if the GOP-controlled congress had a lick of sense.
He points out the conundrum of “what if this was a train carrying oil?” Incidentally, those same tracks carry trains with oil, natural gas and other volatile chemicals in addition to the thousands of commuters it services daily.
I can’t spoil it all, you need to see it for yourself.