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: ##http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0810/41378.html##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.

  • Confused

    I’m confused about one thing (or maybe I misunderstand the process here), but…

    Couldn’t the President simply veto these budget cuts to make sure they never see the light of day? By not passing a budget, wouldn’t we be left with the previous year’s budget plan (while not perfect, at least would not be the slaughterhouse that these goons are proposing)?

  • taomom

    These little cuts are just for show and will do nothing for the deficit. Politicians sincerely interested in deficit reduction (rather than just posing and posturing for the media) would tackle our outrageous subsidies of oil, ethanol, and road infrastructure. If they did this, they could cut our deficit in half in one year. The steps required:

    –Cut the defense budget by two-thirds by ceasing any attempts to control Middle East oil reserves. Immediately withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and eliminate all military bases in the Middle East.
    –eliminate all corn subsidies
    –eliminate all ethanol subsidies
    –eliminate all tax subsidies and freebies to oil companies
    –tax all consumption of fossil fuels at a rate that pays for the health costs resulting from the pollution emitted in the extraction, refining (or in some cases manufacturing) and burning of the fuel
    –make all federal highways into tollways that entirely pay for the maintenance and repair of the roads and bridges involved.

    This would be real, concrete, honest deficit reduction.

    I am not a fan of astronomical deficit spending. I believe our current path is irresponsible at best, suicidal at worst. But if we are to live within our means, the big things have to be tackled, not the penny-ante stuff. These current bills in the House are like telling your kid you can’t afford a candy bar at the check-out counter while you are buying several fifths of vodka.

    Once our outrageous subsidies of oil, roads, and cars are ended, we may find rail and public transit are items the electorate is very glad to spend their tax dollars on.

  • Steven Harrell

    @Confused:

    Yes, he can veto the budget. No, we would not continue with last year’s budget. If the budget isn’t passed by March 4, the federal government will shutdown.

    If the government shuts down, essential employees (the people teabaggers tend to like) will be forced to work temporarily without pay; non-essential employees (the ones teabaggers don’t like) will get a paid vacation; and contractors (among others, the guys who empty the trash, provide security, and make copies) may never get paid, and will essentially be unemployed.

    If that happens, in the words of John Boehner, “so be it.” It isn’t as if teabaggers care about jobs or anything. Nor, apparently, are they interested in saving money– as a government shutdown will cost more money– or passing debt on to future generations– as crumbling transport and education infrastructure is most definitely debt.

  • Taomom: are you running for President? You have my vote. $600B net subsidy of roadways, according to a recent study. It’s a classic tactic to cut at the fringes to take attention away from the 800 lb gorillas in the room: oil, roads, war, and agriculture.

  • deanrd

    Why do Republicans keep saying the 800 billion dollar stimulus. Half of it were Republican tax cuts. There were the Bush tax cuts and the stimulus tax cuts. The deficit creating Bush Tax cuts were good. The Deficit creating Stimulus Tax cuts were bad. Which is it?

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