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Proposed Amtrak cuts spark congressional contention, delay house vote

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In a surprising turn of events on Capitol Hill, New York GOP representatives have forcefully opposed proposed Amtrak budget cuts, causing a delay in the House vote on a Republican-drafted transportation funding bill.

The legislation, which had been making its way through the legislative process, faced unexpected resistance from Republicans representing swing districts in New York.

The primary point of contention is the significant reduction in funding for Amtrak, which the GOP spending bill seeks to implement. This proposed budget includes a drastic 65% cut to Amtrak’s annual funding, with a notable $1 billion reduction earmarked for the heavily trafficked Northeast Corridor.

According to Republican lawmakers from New York, these cuts could have dire consequences, adversely affecting train services and the overall economy. Nassau County Representative Anthony D’Esposito minced no words, declaring the 65% Amtrak cut as a “non-starter.”

The opposition within the GOP is not confined to New York alone. Representative Marc Molinaro emphasized the financial importance of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, stressing that it is a profitable route responsible for sustaining numerous jobs. Fellow GOP Representative Mike Lawler echoed these concerns, underlining the necessity of adequate funding for Amtrak’s operations.

Amtrak’s CEO had previously issued a warning that such cuts could lead to a significant reduction or suspension of services on multiple routes nationwide, including State Supported, Long Distance, and the vital Northeast Corridor services.

The GOP spending bill had previously advanced out of committee earlier in the year, but the expected vote by the full House this week was postponed due to the objections raised by New York Republicans and other lawmakers from various regions. Given the GOP’s slim majority in the House, these objections could potentially derail the bill.

Among those standing firmly against the current legislation is Suffolk County Congressman Nick LaLota, who asserted that he would vote as an “absolute no” unless changes were made. He argued that any budget cuts should be distributed proportionally throughout the entire country and not disproportionately target New York and New Jersey.

It’s essential to note that this bill is still a work in progress, and the Democratic-led Senate will have its say. The Senate is expected to push for increased funding for Amtrak, and some lawmakers anticipate further adjustments during the legislative process.

Staten Island Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis indicated her intention to support the legislation, primarily due to a provision aimed at ending congestion pricing in Manhattan, which she had advocated for.

However, she expressed hope that the Amtrak funding issue could be addressed through amendments or negotiations with the Senate, with the goal of restoring some of the funding that has been proposed to be cut. The fate of the transportation funding bill remains uncertain as both sides of the aisle grapple with the complex and politically charged issue of Amtrak funding.

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