Emanuel: Obama pushed hard for rail funds

Feb. 17, 2009 at 10:06 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A total of $8 billion in economic stimulus bill funding for high-speed rail was inserted at the behest of U.S. President Barack Obama, his chief of staff says.

The funding, which far surpasses anything ever attempted by the United States in establishing new high-speed intercity trains, was specifically requested by Obama late in the process of U.S. House of Representatives-Senate negotiations on the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told Tuesday's edition of the Washington publication Politico.

"I put it in there for the president," Emanuel told Politico. "The president wanted to have a signature issue in the bill, his commitment for the future."

After the House of Representatives' version of the bill was passed with no high-speed rail funding, Emanuel greatly upped the ante, asking House-Senate negotiators for $10 billion for high-speed rail. He told Politico the proposal garnered support after other candidates for a signature Obama infrastructure issue -- such as school construction and modernizing the nation's electric grid -- were fading.

During the campaign, Obama talked of revitalizing the Midwest by connecting cities with faster rail service to relieve congestion and improve energy conservation, the publication said.

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