This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Latham (R-IA) to H.R. 3228, which provided fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Transportation. The amendment would have reduced fiscal year 2010 funding for high speed rail service by three billion dollars, from the four billion dollars in the bill back to the one billion dollars requested by the Obama Administration.
Rep. Latham noted that eight billion dollars was approved for high speed rail in the previously-enacted economic stimulus package. He also noted: “(W)e are just now embarking on this high-speed rail initiative. The stimulus funds are still in the Treasury. They haven't been spent, and there is little reason to dump another $3 billion on top of an unspent $8 billion . . . .” Latham acknowledged that there was a large pent-up demand for high-speed rail, but asked, rhetorically, “(A)re we really ready to embark on (when) . . . We don't even know if those grant applications have any feasibility at all?”
Rep. Olver D-MA), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 3288, led the opposition to the amendment. Olver said that the inter-city high-speed rail program “is the most important transportation initiative since the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System . . . which took a generation, basically, to build.” Olver did claim that there was “a huge” pent up demand for it, and noted that $100 billion of applications had already been submitted for $8 billion in the economic stimulus program.
Olver argued: “(I)f we do not add significantly . . . by adding $4 billion to the $8 billion that is already there, then people will lose faith or wonder, Are we in this seriously? Are we going to do high-speed and intercity passenger rail, as had been proposed and put forward in the recovery bill earlier or aren't we intending to do that? I think we must keep this momentum going . . .
Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) also opposed the amendment. She said that the large amount of funding for high-speed rail was needed “to improve our way of life, create jobs, (and) foster long-term economic growth” and that those funds would “leverage hundreds of billions of dollars in private capital to put toward rebuilding America.” Latham responded by saying “I'm not against high-speed rail . . . but I'm just saying to have this money sit here and do nothing when we've got a critical issue, as far as the highway trust fund that needs funding immediately, is simply wrong.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 136-284. One hundred and thirty-two Republicans and four Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-four Democrats and forty Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the four billion dollars in fiscal year 2010 funding for high-speed rail remained in H.R. 3288.