Trump Threatens Government Shutdown if Congress Funds Amtrak Gateway Tunnel

Trump's animus towards using federal funds to replace a century-old, hurricane-damaged rail tunnel under the Hudson River is so strong that he warned Congress he will veto a spending bill they must pass by March 23 to keep the government operating.
March 12, 2018, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Evan El-Amin

As posted earlier, President Trump had personally asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to not include any federal funds towards Amtrak's $30 billion Gateway Program which includes about $13 billion for replacing the 108-year-old tunnel under the Hudson River, damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The tunnel, consisting of two, single-track, electrified rail tubes, is operating on borrowed time. It provides the only means for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains to access New York's Penn Station, the busiest rail hub in North America.

The Washington Post reporters who broke that story suggested Trump was acting to punish New York's senior U.S. senator, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for having stalled the confirmation of several of Trump's nominees for his administration, including his pick to head the Federal Railroad Administration.

Now we learn that Trump has clearly raised the stakes in his battle with key Congressional leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, on whether or not to provide omnibus funds for what is considered by many experts to be the nation's most crucial rail project as it is vital to the Northeast Corridor, which has Amtrak's busiest and most profitable routes as well as commuter and freight rail.

"The potential veto was first reported by Politico on Thursday, though sources have cautioned to The Hill that the White House’s move may be more of a pressure tactic," report Melanie Zanona and Mallory Shelbourne for The Hill on March 8.

“The administration has been very clear that we don’t think this is an efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” a senior administration official said in a statement. 

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) want to pass a $1 trillion-plus omnibus spending bill before March 23 when the current funding for the government is exhausted. The bill contains at least $900 million for work on the Hudson Tunnel project.

"While it is highly unusual for a Republican president to threaten a veto on a funding bill coming from a GOP-run Congress — and risking a potential government shutdown — Trump is adamant in his opposition to the federal government underwriting the project, sources said," reports Politico on March 8.

“This is all Trump personally,” said a GOP source on Capitol Hill. “He is not going to go for any Gateway [funding].”

Politico suggests additional explanations for Trump's vendetta against Schumer, such as using the Gateway project to get the minority leader's support for funding the Border Wall.

Hat tip to Mass Transit magazine.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, March 8, 2018 in The Hill
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