Congressional compromise would help Amtrak
from staff and wire reports
July 20, 2002
Congressional negotiators have agreed to give Amtrak a financial break by earmarking $205 million for the nation's problem-plagued passenger rail service.
The money was included in a compromise that would provide $28.9 billion to fund the military and homeland security activities through September.
Smith also serves as chairman of the Amtrak board.
The $28.9 billion bill is within $100 million of what the Bush administration said it could live with letting the president claim a victory in his quest to impose "fiscal discipline" on Congress.
But it also funds numerous priorities of lawmakers. Besides the no-strings-attached grant to Amtrak, the bill also would give $200 million in aid to Israel.
The measure includes $14.3 billion for the Pentagon, to replenish accounts drawn down by the war on terrorism; $6.7 billion for homeland security; and $5.5 billion in new aid for New York, hardest hit in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The measure includes substantial military and development aid for new U.S. allies in Central Asia, and adds $10 million to improve security at embassies abroad.
At the same time, the bill responds to rising pressure in Congress for spending on high-priority domestic programs. It sets aside money for veterans' health, college scholarships, western firefighting and relief for flood victims.
A White House spokeswoman said Bush was "encouraged and looks forward to reviewing the details." She said the administration was pleased that Congress met the president's spending goal while providing new money for military training and airport safety.
Budget officials cautioned that the bill's true cost could be higher than $28.9 billion.
One provision allows an extra $4.5 billion to be spent next year outside the formula used to dole out highway construction money. The recent recession led to a shortfall in gasoline tax receipts, which set the level for highway projects under the formula.
The bill also closes a loophole in U.S. trade law that textile-state lawmakers charged was being used by South American exporters to undercut U.S. manufacturers, threatening 100,000 American jobs.
House GOP leaders worked to close the loophole, a special priority for Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., whose district is a textile center. He faces a tough re-election fight after redistricting.