DeFazio To Offer Stimulus Amendment On Rail Spending

by: Chris Bowers

Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 18:30

One of the stories we have been tracking here on Open Left, with a lot of help from commenter and quick hitter adamterando, has been how rail spending is being shorted in the stimulus. The House version of the stimulus has only $10 billion for rail and mass transit (including only $1.1 billion for Amtrak and high speed rail), despite attempts by House transportation chair Jim Oberstar to make it at least $15 billion. In the Senate, despite calls by Chuck Schumer to increase on the $10 billion number, only $9.5 billion ended up in their version of the stimulus.

Quite a few members of Congress are unhappy about this. Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon appears to be leading the charge to increase stimulus spending on rail, and had some harsh words for Larry Summers on the matter:

In response to the lack of stimulus spending on rail, DeFazio will introduce an amendment to the stimulus to up rail spending by $2 billion. While that is still short of the $15 billion minimum we had hoped for originally, it is at least something.

This amendment is going to go through the House Rules Committee in order to make it to the floor. With a vote on the stimulus expected on Wednesday, amendments need to be clear of committee by Tuesday.

I am thinking that this might be a good piece of activism for us to jump on tomorrow and Tuesday: call members of the House rules committee to help push the DeFazio amendment onto the floor.  Of course, this is only one possible area of the stimulus to focus on, and other people might want to look at others. So, before we take this action, I would like to hear from you.  Do you want to make calls asking for an up or down vote on DeFazio's amendment to increase rail spending in the stimulus?

Chris Bowers :: DeFazio To Offer Stimulus Amendment On Rail Spending

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Great Idea! (4.00 / 6)
I've been following with interest the fight for increased rail spending in the stimulus and this sounds like a reasonable, targeted way to make the stimulus more progressive.

I work for ActBlue.  Feel free to send any questions about ActBlue or online fundraising my way!

Even rural America wants transit spending. (4.00 / 3)
We used to grow and raise 76% of our food in Montana.  Now it's down to 9%.  We need train transport for passengers and farmer's market crops to our large towns. We need mobile slaughter houses for our beef and lamb.  We need water treatment facilities.  But I'm sure we'll just get more highway repair money.  Most highway crews come from out of state, so I don't see that as a help here.  Guess I need to get the word out here in Montana.
Great sight for transportation is

We also want running and walking paths and a pool for our seniors and our kids.  But no, we will get highway money.

Yes. (4.00 / 3)
Let's get going now. The Rules Committee is fairly progressive in it's makeup.

Although I'm not sure if that's the accurate list. This presser from her office makes it seem otherwise.

It lists

   *  Rules Committee Vice Chair James McGovern (D-MA)
   * Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
   * Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)
   * Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA)
   * Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY)
   * Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)
   * Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
   * Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)

in addition to Slaughter. Might want to call up Slaughter's office first to see what the real members of the committee are. And it's worth calling up the Republicans too, it can't hurt and a few of them are under electoral pressure and could budge with some calls.

It's a small but winnable campaign.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

Good point. (0.00 / 0)
Let's do this.

One suggestion - I'm going to say something like "putting in $20 billion would be better, but at least support DeFazio's amendment".

By the way - did I mention that I'm running for president?

[ Parent ]
yes we can (4.00 / 3)
oh yes. we must do all we can to fix this bill

Yes. (4.00 / 5)
And thank you for bringing attention to this.

I'm glad DeFazio is bringing up the amendment.

Chris, since you seem to be good lately at getting info out of MCs, I wonder if you might consider calling Lautenberg's office in the senate to see if there's any plans to up the rail spending on the senate side (he's the biggest and most vocal supporter of rail who is also on the approp. comm.). You might also call Specter's office since he's on the approp. committee as well.  

Why not go for 100 billion? (4.00 / 4)
The complaint is that the stimulus is several hundred billion short of what is needed.  A 100 billion "reducing the need for imported oil" part of the package would be a good progressive stamp on this bill.  


Absolutely (4.00 / 1)
Great project. Any sense of the levels of transit use and need in districts repped by Rules Committee members?

Yes (4.00 / 5)
Rail is disadvantaged in the stimulus because federal funding, tied to the gas tax, is usually so heavily weighted to highways, so there are lots of "shovel ready" road projects in the pipeline. The stimulus is general revenues, so it shouldn't be so road heavy, especially if this is about a green recovery. A third of greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation, and inducing more sprawl by widening roads will only make that worse. Road money should be used to fix existing infrastructure, and the stimulus should expand our pitiful transit and intercity passenger/freight rail infrastructure.  

The shovel ready excuse is truthy, not truth. (4.00 / 1)
The fact is that there has been such a concerted and deliberate right wing effort to kill funding for public transport that there are massive capital works backlogs all across the country. A cursory reading of the Appropriations Committee report, as I did for Transport Stimulus: You're Doing It Wrong, shows that there is no conceivable way that the shovel ready projects are close to exhausted at either the proposed $4b for rail or the proposed $6b for buses.

In Transport Stimulus: Doing It Right (xpost links therein), I sketch out a simple approach to letting local transit authorities work out for themselves what shovel ready projects they have, and start spending money on them.

[ Parent ]
This is a great idea (4.00 / 1)
Rail and transit-related infrastructure are better investments than a highways, and will generate longer-term economic activity, not just "stimulus."

The shovel-ready argument is weak - there are plenty of transit-related projects that can use short-term funds.

Does DeFazio have an offset? (0.00 / 0)
I assume he does if he's serious about bringing an amendment. It seems ridiculous in this climate to have to worry about offsets, considering that we'll probably be moving yet another banking bailout soon on top of all this. But if Rules wants PAYGO offsets, the substance of your amendment might not matter if you don't have one.

Or have the special blessing of the Speaker.

This is going to be an interesting experiment, and we should try it whether we think it'll work or not, just to get used to the process.

I have a feeling we'll learn that the Rules committee is less susceptible to pressure from the outside than most, but that's something that'd be valuable to know, too.

39% of the stimulus is for tax cuts (0.00 / 0)
I hope it would come from there.

[ Parent ]
That's why, as I mention, I think it may be ... (0.00 / 0)
... necessary to push in the Senate and raise enough of a ruckus in the House that House conferees don't push back.

(when I say, "as I mention", that'd be at House Matters).

[ Parent ]
Clarity is useful ... $4b for rail and $6b for buses. (0.00 / 0)
Saying $10b for rail and mass transit" understates how far the proposed spending lines are from the potential for stimulus spending on rail.


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