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Saturday, January 17, 1998

Subject: When you think it has calmed down


A front page report in the New York Times yesterday says that six U.S. Senators are accusing President Clinton of backtracking on his earlier pledges of support for Amtrak. The six Senators, Republicans and Democrats from the northeast, sent an angry letter to the White House denouncing the President's proposed budget that would reportedly cut off all federal operating subsidies for Amtrak.

The six Senators include Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Joseph Biden (D-DE), William Roth (R-DE) and John Chafee (R-RI). In the letter the Senators said that the Clinton proposal, if enacted, would leave Amtrak "woefully short of money and unable to continue operating as planned" and would undermine efforts "to keep Amtrak from going bankrupt." Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said eliminating operating subsidies would lead to widespread layoffs and cutbacks in service.

However, White House press secretary Mike McCurry told reporters, "Everything that I've been led to believe indicates there will be substantial operating subsidies and substantial capital investments for Amtrak in the budget the president will propose in February."

In a related development, the following is a press statement from UTU (United Transportation Union) National Legislative Director, J. M. Brunkenhoefer:

"Well, President Clinton's advisors have rolled out the "blue smoke and mirrors" again. Some Republicans want to kill Amtrak outright and now some Presidential advisors want to play games with the numbers so that Amtrak will starve to death for lack of operating money. Either way, Amtrak would die. Thousands of our members' jobs would be lost and railroad retirement would be threatened. Why? Because some at the White House want to play theoretical games. They want to play a flim flam shell game that moves the numbers around so that the numbers look good on paper but there is no money.

Here We Go Again)

"Call John Podesta, Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House,

(202) 456-1414.

If you can't reach him, call Karen Tremontano at the same number. Tell them to keep their commitments to Amtrak. It is time for our members to stop worrying about their jobs. It is time for our retirees to stop worrying about their pensions. It is time to stop worrying the public about the continuation of Amtrak service. I think it is horrible, after what we all went through last year in Congress, to see a few people in the White House try to break the deal. Call the White House. Tell them to keep their word."

Let the White House know how you feel.

CALL (202) 456-1414

SAVE AMTRAK ! [again]

Thanks to Craig O'Connell for his assistance in getting the news out quickly.

UPDATE!! January 21

Without comment (note Hutchinson and Lott's support of Amtrak about The White House Bulletin - 1/21/98).


Amtrak and Transportation Budget Questions On The Hill.

Body: Rumors that the White House is looking to end Amtrak subsidies were met by a loud chorus of objectors late last week, and the Administration's position remains unclear. Six angry northeastern senators fired off a letter to President Clinton Thursday saying cutting the subsidy would threaten the future of the passenger rail service. One source familiar with the situation told the Bulletin that while the Administration's final budget numbers are still unknown, he said that what was in last week's letter from the concerned senators "speaks the truth. " The White House has continued to say it supports Amtrak and continued funding, but a source close to situation said, "that's fine. But the question is where's the money gonna come from? Is it gonna be an appropriations for operating support or are they gonna recommend it coming out of the $2.3 (billion capital fund). "

Another letter was sent by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Majority Leader Trent Lott to President Clinton late Friday arguing that the $2.3 billion set off for capital improvements cannot be used for operating expenses. "As you know, use of this money in such a manner would be a serious violation of the statutory stipulations Congress placed on those funds. Amtrak does not have the legal authority to utilize these funds for any purpose except capital expenditures. " Lott and Hutchison added: "We made this point abundantly clear during last year's negotiations between Amtrak and the Brotherhood Maintenance-of-Way-Engineers. " The Amtrak board of directors issued a statement late Friday after their "regularly scheduled meeting " saying the Board "reconfirmed the railroad's continued need for adequate Federal support. " Amtrak Vice Chair Don Pease said, "Amtrak's operating challenge over the next few years is as great as ever, even with the $2.3 billion in capital approved last year as part of the Taxpayer Relief Act. "

There is also concern on Capitol Hill over ISTEA legislation in the House. While ISTEA is said to be high on the leadership agendas in both Houses, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott indicated yesterday he is unsure when the measure will make it to the Senate floor.

Thanks to "" for the timely information.


Last Updated 01/23/98 22:06 hrs. EST




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