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GOP bill would shift bullet train money to Midwest flood relief

July 14, 2011 |  1:50 pm

Photo: A mock up of the California high-speed rail system. Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority Jeopardizing $213 million promised to California, the House is poised to pass a bill that would divert money for high-speed rail projects around the country to Midwest flood relief.

In a preview of the bitter partisan fights that lay ahead over ways to reduce the federal budget deficit, Democrats on Thursday protested a provision of a Republican-drafted spending bill that would rescind $2 billion in unobligated high-speed rail funds from the 2009 economic stimulus bill. A large chunk of that is money rejected by Florida’s governor for high-speed rail and awarded to California and other states after a fierce competition.
 
Democrats accused Republicans of putting at risk projects that will provide jobs critical to the nation’s economic recovery. "The flooding that has occurred in our nation's heartland is being used as an excuse to eliminate an investment in our transportation network and our future," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).

While many Republicans are cool to high-speed rail, a priority of President Obama’s, Republicans said the budget deficit made it necessary to shift the money to funding repairs to the widespread damage caused by this year’s heavy flooding.

"We’ve got to make tough choices," said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) "That means balancing a budget and not just saying everything can get all the funding it wants."

But Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) responded, "This is a choice that we should not have to make. We shouldn't have to choose between serving flood victims and providing the long-term jobs that we need in Michigan," suggesting that some of the money spent overseas could be spent at home.

The Democratic-controlled Senate has yet to draft its version of the 2012 energy and water spending bill.

But efforts to take away the rail money could run into strong resistance from the chairwoman of the Senate energy and water appropriations subcommittee -- California’s Dianne Feinstein, a supporter of the high-speed rail project in her state. The Obama administration opposes the diversion.
 
A spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority said, "We’re working with our federal partners to obligate that funding in the near term."

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-- Richard Simon in Washington

Photo: A mock-up of the California high-speed rail system. Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority

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