Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Key House Republicans Aren’t Buying Administration HSR Proposal
by Tanya Snyder on February 8, 2011
Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement of a $53 billion infusion for high-speed rail has fallen like a lead balloon on the ears of some key GOP leaders. House Transportation Committee Chair John L. Mica (R-FL) and Railroads Subcommittee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) expressed “extreme reservations” about the plan.
Transportation Chair John Mica has "extreme reservations" about the administration's new plan for HSR.
“This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio,” Mica said in a statement.
“With the first $10.5 billion in Administration rail grants, we found that 1) the Federal Railroad Administration is neither a capable grant agency, nor should it be involved in the selection of projects, 2) what the Administration touted as high-speed rail ended up as embarrassing snail-speed trains to nowhere, and 3) Amtrak hijacked 76 of the 78 projects, most of them costly and some already rejected by state agencies,” Mica added. “Amtrak’s Soviet-style train system is not the way to provide modern and efficient passenger rail service.”
They say the committee plans to investigate how previous funding decisions were made, charging that rail routes were selected “behind closed doors” as a “political grab bag for the President,” despite “the Administration’s pledges of transparency.”
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result and that is exactly what Vice President Biden offered today,” Shuster said. “Rail projects that are not economically sound will not ‘win the future.’ It just prolongs the inevitable by subsidizing a failed Amtrak monopoly that has never made a profit or even broken even. Government won’t develop American high-speed rail. Private investment and a competitive market will.”
Like we said [see below] – don’t count those 53 billion chickens before they’re passed by Congress
The plan announced today would start with $8 billion in the coming fiscal year. But Republicans are taking a slash-and-burn approach to the budget, and administration priorities like high-speed rail are high on the list of potential casualties. Where will the money come from, now that recovery act money is gone and Republicans are trying (and failing, but still trying) to go back to 2008 levels for discretionary spending. The White House press release doesn’t explain how it intends to come up with the money, or get such a proposal through an axe-happy House.