House Committee Gives Amtrak Extra Funding

The House Appropriations Committee has voted to give Amtrak $10 billion in federal fiscal year 2021 with a mandate that long-distance service continue to operate daily.

By a 30-22 vote the committee approved the $18.9 billion Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill, which includes transportation funding for federal fiscal year 2021.

The THUD bill was one of 24 that the committee marked up during the past 10 days and sent to the House floor.

The bill allocates $3 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, of which more than two-thirds of which will go to Amtrak.

That includes $2 billion for the passenger carrier through the standard budgeting process. Another $3 billion was allocated for the National Network and $5 billion for the Northeast Corridor as part of an economic stimulus title.

The stimulus title contains $75 billion to help the U.S. economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that $21 billion will go for rail and transit operations.

“The emergency funding in this bill is pivotal to kick start a strong and equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey.

The committee approved on a voice vote an amendment requiring the use of masks by passenger and employees on airlines, Amtrak, and in large transit agencies, as well as enhanced sanitation measures.

Congressional watchers expect the transportation and other appropriations bills to be passed by the full House but their fate in the Senate is uncertain.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby is resisting demands of Democrats on the committee to be allowed to offer amendments on COVID-19 emergency aid and police reforms.

Shelby said that would violate a previous agreement on how bi-partisan bills are to be considered.

Some believe Congress will wind up passing a series of continuing resolutions to keep federal spending at its current levels into the next fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1.

It remains to be seen if Congress will adopt spending bills for FY2021 in the lame duck session following the November election or leave that business for the next Congress that will be seated in January 2021.

The $2.05 billion in the bill for standard Amtrak funding is $50 million above the enacted appropriation for the passenger carrier in FY2020 and $1.1 billion above the Trump administration’s budget request.

The bill allocates $18.9 billion for the Federal Transit Administration.

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