One day after the worst Amtrak accident in nearly three decades, some members of Congress wanted to reduce the U.S. passenger rail service's budget.
Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday blocked an attempt by Democrats to increase Amtrak's budget by more than $1 billion. In fact, the panel approved a cut in Amtrak's budget.
The vote followed Tuesday night's derailment of an Amtrak train traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York City. At least seven of the more than 200 people on board were killed in the accident, which happened in Philadelphia.
The Democrats' legislative initiative, offered by Representative Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, included more than $500 million targeted for Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, where the accident took place.
Republicans are seeking to cut Amtrak's budget for next year to $1.14 billion, an 18 percent reduction.
Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, criticized the vote to cut Amtrak's budget, saying the move was "shortsighted" in light of Tuesday's derailment.
Representative Janice Hahn, a California Democrat, said funding for infrastructure overall in the United States was "woefully inadequate."
She added that "even sometimes when we find out that the cause of a train accident was human error or something else, we move away from [the question], 'Did infrastructure play a role?' ”
The House spending bill for the coming fiscal year would cut Amtrak grants by $252 million from current levels, said Shaun Donovan, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. He noted in a conference call with reporters that President Barack Obama had proposed a boost in Amtrak funding to $2.45 billion, up from current levels of $1.4 billion.
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday quoted Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, as saying the accident was "a tragedy that we have to do everything we can to make sure doesn't repeat itself." But he added, "The concept, however, that it is always, no matter what, more money that is the solution is not always the case."
A Federal Railroad Administration analysis shows the number of Amtrak accidents is up significantly so far this year, after being relatively flat for the last several years.