What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : America's Poor : H.R. 1401(Rail and Public Transportation Security Act), Sessions of Texas amendment to prohibit Amtrak from using funds authorized by the bill on the 10 long-distance routes that have lost the most revenue/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 house Roll Call 196)
 Who: All Members : New York, District 2 : King, Pete
[POW!]
 
H.R. 1401(Rail and Public Transportation Security Act), Sessions of Texas amendment to prohibit Amtrak from using funds authorized by the bill on the 10 long-distance routes that have lost the most revenue/On agreeing to the amendment
house Roll Call 196     Mar 27, 2007
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Progressive Position
Progressive Result
(win or loss)

This vote was on an amendment by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) to a bill to authorize $6 billion to improve transit security. Sessions' amendment would prohibit Amtrak from using money authorized in the bill to add security measures, with the exception of fire and life-safety improvements, to the 10 long-distance routes that have lost the most revenue.

"What this amendment does, and it does it very simply, is stop adding unnecessary costs to the 10 worst routes that already cost Amtrak $161 million a year," Sessions said during floor debate. "The worst route in Amtrak's system, called the Sunset Limited, which runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles, had a net loss of $20.4 million last year, or, on a cost basis to taxpayers, 25.5 cents per seat for every mile of that journey."

The amendment, Sessions said, "provides the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security with the flexibility to waive this provision should that secretary deem that a security upgrade on one of these most unprofitable routes, or even a partial part of it, would be deemed to be critical to Homeland Security."

"All in all, it says that if Amtrak wants to compete for the $4 billion worth of funds made available under this Act, they must ensure that they are being used for routes that cost the taxpayer less than 10.4 cents per seat over every single mile, a hurdle that is hardly unreasonable," Sessions continued.

Democrats countered that the amendment would cause the federal government to fail in its obligations to protect its citizens. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said it was "baffling."

"I ask the question of my colleagues, what is one life worth?" Jackson Lee asked. "What is one life worth that travels along the Nation's transit corridors, the intense Northeast corridor that deals with Amtrak long distance routes, 2 million people?"

Amtrak is part of a system, Democrats maintained, and a security breech in one part of the system affects the integrity of the whole organization.

Sessions failed to find a majority for his amendment, and 72 Republicans joined all but three Democrats in voting against it. Since Session's amendment lost by a vote of 130-299, the $6 billion transportation security bill went forward without his amendment prohibiting Amtrak from using funds from the legislation to update security measures on its least profitable lines.

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