WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- One day after a train derailment killed seven people near Philadelphia, a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would slash more than $250 million from Amtrak's budget.
The House Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 along party lines to pass a $55 billion bill, of which Amtrak would receive $1.14 billion. House Democrats tried and failed to include two amendments giving Amtrak its typical $1.4 billion share of the budget.
Democrats said full funding was needed to keep up with the nation's aging transportation system. Some even pointed to Tuesday's deadly crash as a reason for giving more funding to boost transportation safety.
"Yesterday's tragedy in Philadelphia should be a wake-up call to this committee -- we must provide sufficient funding for Amtrak's critical infrastructure projects to ensure a safer transportation system," said David Price, D-N.C., ranking member of the Appropriations Committee's transportation subcommittee. "The majority's shortsighted, draconian budget cuts stand in the way of the investments that a great country must make."
Republicans said the cuts needed to be made in order to stay under spending cuts President Barack Obama requested four years ago. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, criticized Democrats, particularly Rep. Steven Israel, D-Pa., for bringing Tuesday's crash into the debate "when you have no idea, no idea, what caused this accident."
"Don't use this tragedy in that way," Simpson said. "It was beneath you."
His and other Republicans' argument was that it was too early in the investigation into the train derailment to blame the crash on the quality of the transportation infrastructure.
Two people with knowledge of the investigation told The Wall Street Journal that speed may have been a factor. They said the train was traveling more than 100 mph around a bend in the track with a maximum suggested speed of 50 mph.