House Votes to Strip High-Speed Rail Funding

This morning, the House voted 232-182 for an Energy and Water Appropriations bill that redirects $1 billion of high-speed rail money to flood relief for the Midwest.

Of course midwestern flood victims need relief. Does it need to come at the expense of high-speed rail? Photo: NOAA

Never mind that that flood relief won’t arrive for many months, since this is a 2012 appropriations bill. The important thing here is to kill high-speed rail.

(Why? I dunno. ‘Cause the president likes it?)

The high-speed rail money is still in federal hands thanks to Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to send it back — another thing to thank Scott for.

Democrat Louise Slaughter of New York said the choice between flood relief and high-speed rail was a false one. “The attempt to rescind this money is nothing but an opportunistic attempt to gain politically from a human tragedy,” she said in a speech on the floor of the House. “The flooding that has occurred in our nation’s heartland is being used as an excuse to eliminate an investment in our transportation network and our future.”

She says New York stands to lose big if the funds are rescinded — about $450 million is on the line.

However, if USDOT acts fast to release the money, it will no longer be sitting in federal coffers, open to rescission when the House bill takes effect. Immediately after passage of the House bill, New Jersey senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both Democrats, sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, asking him to expedite the release of $450 million in funding for Amtrak and NJ Transit improvements [PDF].

The House move is an assault on high-speed rail; no doubt. But it may not be a successful one. The Senate and White House are unlikely to go along with the cut, and given the gridlock in Congress over every spending bill that comes its way, a final vote on Appropriations is likely still a long way off.