The PJ Tatler

Pennsylvania Dem Senator: 'Premature' to Make Connection Between Amtrak Disaster and Funding

While many on Capitol Hill are saying that the Amtrak derailment proves the need for great rail funding, Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator is cautioning against drawing a connection between appropriations and the crash.

The derailment killed eight, and the National Transportation Safety Board said initial investigation showed the engineer going into a 50 mph curve in Philadelphia at 106 mph.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) does support greater funding for rail infrastructure, but “obviously when a train is going that much above the speed limit, 106 miles an hour, that can only be trouble.”

“We also don’t know whether there’s a connection between what happened the other night and funding. There may be a connection. There may not be. But I think for either side to say they know is really premature,” Casey told CNN today. “So, I think all of us — whether you’re a member of Congress or whether commentators or citizens, I think we should all indulge in a little bit of humility and wait until we have facts.”

“The good news about NTSB is they seem to be willing to put facts on the public record as they determine them and that’s good news. I have — I was worried that they might be waiting many days or weeks before they disclosed what they are certain about. But I think we just have to — we have to wait and see.”

Casey stressed he doesn’t know if he had gotten his way on increased funding year after year “that that would’ve rectified the problem or prevented this tragedy.”

On Wednesday, Casey stressed to CNN that “today is not a day to analyze the connection between this tragedy and larger policy discussion.”

“I’ve always believed that Amtrak is underfunded just as we could say about a number of other programs or agencies, and specially, a larger question again of infrastructure. But I don’t know if there’s a linkage between the two. We have to, I think we have to show some humility and indicate what we don’t know. But if there is a connection, then that will lead to I think a robust debate about funding. But I think it’s too early to tell.”

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) made that link quickly, chewing out the House Appropriations Committee during a previously scheduled meeting yesterday to consider administration requests for transportation funding.

“The fact is that the Amtrak budget that we voted on today is $1.3 billion below the president’s request and $250 million less than last year. So, we offered a simple amendment today in the Appropriations Committee. And that was to restore those funds. And what we got was a party line vote. They defeated that amendment just within 24 hours after this accident,” Israel told MSNBC.

“And my final point is this: Republicans said that it’s just that we couldn’t afford to add those funds back, that we couldn’t afford to subsidize train safety. Well, two weeks ago, they repealed the entire estate tax at a cost of nearly $700 billion to the treasury without a penny in offset,” he added. “So instead of subsidizing special interests, we need to subsidize the safety of Americans and their infrastructure.”