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Brooks amendment would end federal subsidies for Amtrak

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, September 7, 2017, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, urged the U.S. House to adopt his amendment to eliminate federal government operating subsidies of Amtrak.

The economy has recovered from the Great Recession; but the federal government, which shouldered most of the burden of back stopping the banks and the mortgage business in the downturn is still spending far more money than it takes in.  The Brooks amendment would cut Amtrak subsidies propping up the passenger rail monopoly.

Brooks said, “This one vote symbolizes why America is facing a $20 trillion dollar debt.  Washington’s spending problem is a backbone problem.  There is no policy justification for forcing Americans who do not use Amtrak to subsidize the travel of Americans who do use Amtrak.  There are simply too many congressmen who want to spend money we do not have for things we cannot afford.”

The Congressional Research Service reports that, from 1971 to 2015, Federal Amtrak subsidies totaled $78 billion in constant 2015 dollars.  In Fiscal Year 2014, Amtrak had a net loss of $1.1 billion.

The House voted on Brooks’ amendment and it was not adopted.

Brooks said, “This one vote symbolizes why America is facing a $20 trillion dollar debt.  Washington’s spending problem is a backbone problem.  There is no policy justification for forcing Americans who do not use Amtrak to subsidize the travel of Americans who do use Amtrak.  There are simply too many congressmen who want to spend money we do not have for things we cannot afford.”

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Brooks continued, “Out of control Washington spending must be reined in if America is to avoid a catastrophic insolvency and bankruptcy.  The CBO, America’s Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, and the Government Accountability Office have all warned Congress and the President, in writing, that America’s deficits and debt paths are ‘unsustainable.’”

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Brooks concluded, “It is appalling that the Federal Government undermines and threatens the future of America’s children and grandchildren in order to subsidize Amtrak passenger service that would be self-sufficient if Amtrak riders stopped mooching off of hard-working American taxpayers and, instead, simply paid for the actual cost of their rides.  We must cut Amtrak from the government dole, be financially responsible, and make Amtrak pay its own way.”

Brooks said, “America’s solvency has deteriorated since 2015.  In Fiscal Year 2016, America’s deficit exploded to $587 billion . . . $148 billion worse than the previous year.  In Fiscal Year 2017, this fiscal year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects the deficit will again explode to $693 billion . . $145 billion worse this year than last year.  And that is before the bill comes due for the Hurricane Harvey destruction in Louisiana and Texas.”

Brooks added, “Congress will soon raise America’s debt ceiling.  As a result, and within days thereafter, America’s debt will blow through the $20 trillion mark.  As a result of America’s $20 trillion debt, we pay over $250 billion per year in debt service.  How much is $250 billion?  It roughly five times what we spend on transportation for things like highways, bridges, and interstates each year.  That debt service money is gone . . . no longer able to provide services to Americans.  Rather, it is spent to make amends for past government excesses and irresponsible spending.”

Brooks is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus and is a budget hawk.  Brooks represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District.  There is no Amtrak service in the 5th Congressional District.  The closest Amtrak stations are in Birmingham and Memphis.

 

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