Washington, D.C. – House Speaker John Boehner ripped a reporter Thursday for questioning him about Democrats’ efforts to tie Amtrak funding to Tuesday’s deadly train crash. “Are you really going to ask such a stupid question?” Boehner told the reporter before she could finish her question. “Listen: You know they (Democrats) started this yesterday. It’s all about funding, it’s all about funding. Obviously it’s not about funding.”
Instead, Boehner insisted that the train’s speed – twice the speed limit at the curve where the train derailed – was the only relevant factor. He said: “The train was going twice the speed limit. Adequate funds were there – no money was cut from rail safety, and the House passed a bill earlier this spring to reauthorize Amtrak and authorize a lot of these programs. It’s hard for me to imagine that people take the bait on some of the nonsense that gets spewed around here.”
For years, Republicans have pushed to cut spending for domestic programs, and most have looked to lower spending on Amtrak in a bid to privatize the commuter railway. On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the New York-bound train crashed, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted to reduce grants to Amtrak by $252 million – a drop of about 15% from last year’s level.
One day later, Democrats continued to hammer Republicans over the issue. “Republicans have been very much against Amtrak for a very long time,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. She added that Republicans on the House committee voted down two amendments to boost Amtrak funding for positive train control, a system that combines GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor trains and stop them from colliding, derailing or speeding.