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House set to vote on spending bill with big Amtrak cuts & more

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives is set to vote Wednesday on an appropriations bill that would cut Amtrak funding by more than 60% and block federal support for the California high speed rail program.

H.R. 4820, which funds the Department of Transportation and Department of Housing and Urban Development, includes in the budget for the Federal Railroad Administration the cuts proposed earlier this year by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee. Those would reduce total spending from $2.453 billion in 2023 to $875 million, including a cut in Northeast Corridor spending from $1.25 billion to $99 million [see “House Republicans propose 64% cut to Amtrak budget …,” Trains News Wire, July 12, 2023]. It also specifies that “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available under this Act or any other Act may be provided to the State of California for a high-speed rail corridor” the same or similar to the one currently under construction.

It also maintains the proposed cut of more than 50% in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement, or CRISI, grants from their current levels to $258.5 million, as well as other cuts in the GOP proposal.

Even if the bill passes the Republican-controlled House, it is unlikely to survive in its current form in the Democratically controlled Senate or be signed by President Joe Biden. The Biden administration issued a statement Monday in which it said it “strongly opposes House passage” of the bill, saying House Republicans “are wasting time with partisan bills that cut domestic spending to levels well below the FRA agreement” — a spending deal negotiated in May with since-deposed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — “and endanger critical services for the American people.” Specifically regarding rail spending, the statement says the administration “is concerned by the bill’s lack of investment to improve the safety and efficiency of the nation’s passenger and freight rail network” and opposes the provision blocking California high speed rail spending.

This article originally appeared on Trains.

Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Wurm/File Photo

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