The House just approved Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)‘s amendment to add $3 billion in transit capital funding to the stimulus. They approved it on a voice vote instead of a roll call.
According to Nadler’s floor speech, 1.5 billion will go to the transit capital formula program, which goes to all states, and 1.5 billion to the new starts program. The AFL-CIO and environmental organizations will “score” this amendment, he said, meaning they’ll factor members’ votes on this issue into their scorecard ratings for each Representative. Since it was a voice vote, though, we don’t know who opposed the amendment, making that impossible.
John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the Tranportation Committee and the House’s leading pro-transit Republican, called this “an amendment we have to support.” The Appropriations committee, he said, “took one of the most important parts out: that’s the rail and transit.” Transit infrastructure creates jobs, he said. “Support the Nadler amendment!”
Transportation Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) added, “we heard very clearly from the major transit agencies in this country. They have options for buses. They have options for railcars that could be exercised within days.” Manufacturers can ramp up production and create jobs all across the nation.
David Dreier Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, “reluctantly” opposed since the amendment didn’t cut spending somewhere else. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the Appropriations Chair, gave the shortest speech: “I urge support to the amendment.”
Oregon’s Peter DeFazio: “Americans are loving their transit systems to death. There’s $160 billion of deferred maintenance on these systems… there are 10,000 options for new buses, buses made in America. They can’t be executed because our transit systems don’t have the money.” Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), mentioned light rail in Houston. “This bill must be a jobs bill. The [Chicago Transit Authority] head … said she could spend $500 million tomorrow” putting people to work, added Dan Lipinski of Illinois. “Nothing will create more jobs than funding transportation infrastructure,” said Staten Island’s new Congressman, Democrat Michael McMahon.
Keith Ellison of Minnesota talked about the record transit ridership last year. Dan Maffei (D-NY) relayed recent news that the transit system of his hometown of Syracuse is facing deep cuts.
Nobody other than
Dreier Lewis spoke against the amendment.
Update: The House also rejected an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to remove all funding for Amtrak. “In 40 years, Amtrak has not turned a profit, and the federal government has continued to subsidize it.” Flake, of course, didn’t talk about all the federal subsidy to roads and airports, which he isn’t trying to eliminate. Corinne Brown (D-FL), however, made that very point. “There is no form of transportation that pays for itself. None whatsoever. Whether we’re talking about rail, airlines, cars, none of that. We subsidize all of that.”