Plans for the U.S. House to vote on a transportation funding bill drafted by Republicans were derailed this week, amid concerns about massive spending cuts for Amtrak.
Republicans from New York swing districts bucked their party, with some threatening to vote ‘no’ on the legislation, arguing the cuts would hurt train service and the economy.
A “65% cut to Amtrak is a non-starter,” said Nassau County Rep. Anthony D’Esposito.
The GOP spending bill includes a nearly two-thirds funding cut year-over-year for America’s passenger railroad. That includes a proposed $1 billion cut to the busy Northeast Corridor.
“It's one of the lines that makes money. It is responsible for a good number of jobs,” Rep. Marc Molinaro said.
“It's important to make it clear that the funding needs to be there for Amtrak,” Rep. Mike Lawler said.
In a July statement, Amtrak’s CEO warned that cuts like this would force the railroad to “radically reduce or suspend service on various routes across the nation, impacting our State Supported, Long Distance and Northeast Corridor services.”
The GOP’s bill advanced out of committee earlier this year. But an expected vote by the full House this past week was delayed amid warnings by Republicans from New York and other regions that they could vote against the legislation without changes.
In a chamber where the GOP has a slim majority, that could kill the bill.
Suffolk County Congressman Nick LaLota is among those flexing his muscles, saying he would be an “absolute no” on the legislation as it stands.
“Don't just come after New York, don't just come after New Jersey,” he said. “If there are going to be cuts, it should be proportional throughout the entire country.”
This is by no means the final version of the bill. The Democratic-led Senate still gets to weigh in, too, and they want to see more funding. Some lawmakers are banking on further changes down the road.
Staten Island Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, for instance, indicated she plans to vote for the legislation, noting it includes a provision that she advocated for aimed at killing congestion pricing in Manhattan.
“I’m hoping that we can address the Amtrak issue either with an amendment or knowing that the Senate's going to do something there and we can work something out in conference to restore some of that funding,” Malliotakis said.