< WASHINGTON, D.C. – Calling it one last chance for the Senate to be heard on whether it wants a national passenger rail system, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi today asked the Senate to adopt as an amendment to the budget reconciliation bill, the Amtrak reform bill he introduced in July. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 93-6.
“I know it is highly unusual to add an authorization bill to reconciliation, but time is running out,” said Lott, the chairman of the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee. “Despite the Commerce Committee’s having reported out this bill in July, we have been unable to schedule it for the full Senate. Because the Administration has indicated it will not support any funding for Amtrak this fiscal year unless Congress enacts Amtrak reforms, it is imperative for the Congress to make its voice heard on Amtrak. Time is running out.
“Do we help support highways? Do we help the airlines? If we want a complete system of infrastructure and transportation, America needs to include rail as well. Do we want Amtrak to wither on the vine?”
The Amtrak reauthorization bill centers around three themes: reform and accountability, cost cutting, and creating funding options for the states.
“The amendment improves how Amtrak works and ensures that the taxpayers’ money is used more effectively,” Senator Lott said. “It cuts the Amtrak operating subsidy by 40 percent and creates a new rail capital grant program that states can use to start new inter-city passenger rail service. It requires Amtrak to develop much better financial systems and be held accountable for its use of federal funding.”