Democrats Call Out Republicans on Amtrak Bill

House Republicans' proposal to deregulate passenger-rail service is creating some buzz inside the Beltway.

Yesterday (June 15), Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., and Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., unveiled their plan to allow private-sector companies to bid on the opportunity to take over intercity passenger-rail service from Amtrak as well as the opportunity to develop and operate a high-speed-rail system in the Northeast Corridor.

If the plan, which is in the draft legislation stage, becomes a law, it likely would dismantle Amtrak, the embattled, publicly subsidized rail operator created by Congress in 1970.

Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (which Mica chairs), declared that the legislation would be a "death knell for passenger-rail service from coast to coast."

Rahall slammed the Republicans for "dusting off a chronically unpopular proposal" that was first proposed during the George W. Bush administration.

Mica and Shuster counter that Amtrak is poorly managed and milking the taxpayers for billions of dollars in subsidies.

Yesterday, Rahall and Corrine Brown, D-Fla., wrote a letter to Mica and Shuster asking for a legislative hearing on the bill before the transportation committee or the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials formally considers the bill.

"This legislation, which you state makes sweeping changes to the national passenger-rail system, has not been shared with the Democratic members or staff," the letter states. "We have not been briefed on the proposal. And it is not yet available for public review.

"We believe there should be an opportunity to have a formal discussion on this legislation that would allow all interested and affected parties to participate before moving it through the committee process. Legislative hearings would provide an appropriate public forum for such a discussion."

Well, here's one forum to discuss the proposal.

What do you think of the idea to deregulate passenger-rail service?

Should Amtrak be derailed?

Should Amtrak be allowed to develop and operate a high-speed-rail system in the Northeast Corridor, or should that opportunity be extended to the private sector?

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