The Speaker of the House got a little feisty with a reporter at his weekly press briefing,Thursday when she asked him about the GOP’s funding cut for Amtrak .
Because they operate under a “never let a crisis go to waste” axiom, Democrats have been pushing the idea that the Amtrak crash was the result of a lack of federal funding, which of course is the fault of stingy and heartless Republicans. The timing of a fiscal 2016 spending bill provided a splendid opportunity for Democrats to engage in this demagoguery. It was being voted on in the House just hours after the crash.
The GOP-sponsored transportation and housing bill contains $1.13 billion for Amtrak for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. That’s down from roughly $1.4 billion that Congress appropriated for 2015.
A spokeswoman for Republicans on the Appropriations Committee pointed out that those amounts are for infrastructure and construction and do not cover operating costs or safety. The aide said the Federal Rail Administration would receive nearly $187 million for safety and operations for next year, which is the same amount as 2015.
Meanwhile, according to a 2012 report in the New York Times, “Amtrak lost more than $800 million on its food and beverage services over the last 10 years, largely because of waste, employee theft and lack of proper oversight, government auditors have found.”
The Republican cut amounts to only $200 million and does not impact FRA operating costs or safety.
Regardless, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) bashed Republicans in Congress, saying they “failed” passengers who traveled on the Amtrak train Tuesday night. “Horrible Harry Reid” took to Twitter on Thursday to scapegoat Republicans:
@SenatorReid Where did the trillion dollar INFRASTRUCTURE stimulus go?
— JWV52 (@JWV52) May 14, 2015
Even “noted infrastructure expert Cher” got in on the act on Twitter, impugning the GOP for doing this dastardly thing — “EVEN AFTER the Train Crash & loss of Life, last nite.”
Most news outlets dutifully reported this false narrative yesterday at the request of Democratic operatives.
Today, House Speaker John Boehner had an opportunity to react to the charge when reporter Ginger Gibson started to ask him about it at his weekly press briefing.
He cut her off before she could even finish, saying, “are you really going to ask such a stupid question? Listen, you know they started this yesterday, ‘it’s all about funding, it’s all about funding.’ Well, obviously it’s not about funding. The train was going twice the speed limit. Adequate funds were there. No money’s been cut from rail safety, and the House passed a bill earlier this spring to reauthorize Amtrak and authorize a lot of these programs. And it’s hard for me to imagine that people take the bait on some of the nonsense that gets spewed around here.”