Pennsylvania GOP lawmaker Bill Shuster: Amtrak crash had nothing to do with money

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WASHINGTON  — Rep. Bill Shuster said Friday that the Amtrak derailment that killed eight people this week “did not have anything to do with money,” digging in on the GOP’s defense of its efforts to cut funding for the program.

“What I believe is this action did not have anything to do with money — it had to do with a failure on either the operator’s fault or the equipment’s fault,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.” “It had to do with one of those two things that caused this terrible accident.”

Pressed on whether more funding for better infrastructure would’ve avoided the crash, the Pennsylvania Republican said he believed the infrastructure was “in place” and the “tracks were fine.”

Republicans have long looked to Amtrak as a focus of its efforts to cut domestic spending broadly, and many see cutting funding for the train system as a bid to privatize it. On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the New York-bound train crashed, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted to reduce grants to Amtrak by $252 million — a drop of about 15% from last year’s level.

Democrats have hammered Republicans for pushing cuts even in the wake of the crash, and on Thursday called for $1 billion in additional funding for the commuter rail system. Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons decried that vote as “striking,” and called for more Amtrak funding.

“If we were investing anything like our competitors, we would have a modern national train system,” Coons said on CNN’s “New Day.” “We have an aging infrastructure that we have to pay for.”

House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday called a reporter’s question “stupid” when asked about the link between cutting funding to Amtrak and infrastructure issues.

“Are you really going to ask such a stupid question?” Boehner asked. “Listen: You know they (Democrats) started this yesterday. It’s all about funding, it’s all about funding. Obviously, it’s not about funding.”