House to Vote on Deep Cuts to Essential Transportation Programs

The House is still voting on amendment after amendment to the continuing resolution that will fund the federal government for the rest of FY2011. Just a quick recap as we go into the weekend. The “base bill” of HR 1 – not the amendments – would do the following:

Texas Republican Pete Sessions introduced an amendment to cut $447 million from Amtrak's budget. Photo: AP

  • Eliminate the entire high-speed rail program.
  • Cut $430 million of the $2 billion allocated for the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program, the federal government’s primary means of support for transit capital investments.
  • Eliminate TIGER, which provided more than $2 billion to innovative state and local transportation programs around the country last year, and rescind all unspent funds from last year.
  • Cancel federal payments to the Washington, D.C. metro system.

As for the amendments:

  • Republican Pete Sessions of Texas failed to cut $447 million out of Amtrak’s budget.
  • Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado tried to keep the government from rescinding unused TIFIA and TIGER grant money from the stimulus. Polis’ amendment failed.
  • Democrat Gerry Connolly of Virginia tried to restore funding to the DC Metro. Since House rules require that a member take money from somewhere else in order to put any funding back into the bill, he proposed cutting $200 million from the Department of Agriculture’s food safety program. The amendment was discarded on a point of order. He then tried to take the money out of the Agricultural Credit Insurance Fund. That amendment does not appear to have been considered yet.
  • Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise successfully introduced an amendment to cut the salaries of several White House “czars” including the “Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change” and the White House Director of Urban Affairs (both of which are already vacant positions).

And  New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler’s valiant attempt to add back all transportation funding gets its very own bullet list. His amendment #511 would have restored funding for:

  • Federal Transit Administration Capital Investment Grants (New Starts)
  • Capital Assistance for High Speed Rail
  • Rail Line Relocation and Improvement Program
  • Amtrak Capital and Debt Service Grants
  • DOT National Infrastructure Investments
  • Railroad Safety Technology Program
  • Capital Assistance to States for Intercity Passenger Rail Service
  • DOT Grants for Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Reductions
  • The Federal Aviation Administration for Facilities and Equipment
  • FAA Research, Engineering, and Development

Iowa Republican Tom Latham, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, raised a point of order, killing Nadler’s amendment.