Mica Accedes to Dems’ Request to Delay Action on Rail Privatization

Rural Amtrak service could be a sticking point as Mica tries to win over members of his own party to his privatization plan. Photo: TrainWeb

John Mica has blinked.

Rather than go full steam ahead with his fast-track plan to introduce his bill to privatize the Northeast Corridor today and to have the committee discuss it and vote on it tomorrow, Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) has agreed to delay action to allow time for a full legislative hearing. Democrats on the committee had asked Mica for the chance to get a full look at the proposal and voice their concerns.

The hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. The committee has not yet announced who will be appearing as witnesses. We’ll bring you a report after the hearing.

Rahall is pleased with the change in timing. “I would like to thank Chairman Mica for agreeing to Democrats’ request to hold a hearing on this bill before marking it up so that all Members could have an opportunity to better understand its sweeping ramifications,” he said in a statement.

But other Amtrak advocates on the Hill say it’s just delaying the inevitable. And it’s not just Democrats that are critical of the plan to take the Northeast Corridor away from Amtrak and let private companies run and operate the line. There are rumors that Mica’s gotten some grief from members of his own party over the plan.

After all, no one questions that the underlying motive of the privatization plan is to dismantle Amtrak, a company Mica has long derided as a “Soviet-style” money pit.And many rural areas – often represented by Republican lawmakers – depend on Amtrak service as an essential transportation connection and a focal point of their towns. It’s no wonder the representatives of those towns are nervous about the proposal.