MR. RUSSERT: Senator Santorum, your Republican colleague from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, said the
president's elimination of federal subsidies for Amtrak is unacceptable.
SEN. SANTORUM: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you share that view?
SEN. SANTORUM: I would agree with--it's not...
MR. RUSSERT: So you're going to fight it?
SEN. SANTORUM: It's not acceptable to me, either. I think what the president has suggested,
you know, is not going to pass, number one. Number two, I think what he has been putting forward is that Amtrak has
to be more efficient. And I would agree with Joe [Biden]100 percent on the Northeast Corridor and probably the West
Coast. The problem is, you've got a lot of other lines that are horribly unprofitable, and they're in a political conundrum,
which is if you eliminate those lines and they don't have the support to get the money they need--as long as you keep that--lines,
they run huge deficits. So it's--somebody has got to start to make tough decisions at Amtrak, and I'm going to certainly
encourage that to occur.
MR. RUSSERT: But you're going to fight the president?
SEN. SANTORUM: I'll fight him on that money, yes.
SEN. BIDEN: This is worth coming to the show for.
In about-face, Santorum votes no on Amtrak aid
Three weeks ago, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., vowed to fight President Bush's "unacceptable" plan to eliminate
funding for Amtrak.
He changed tracks yesterday, voting with the president and against an amendment to add $1.04 billion in
government assistance for the system.
Bush's budget proposes eliminating support for Amtrak, a long-time target of fiscal conservatives, and putting
the rail system in bankruptcy.
"I support the current funding levels in the president's proposed budget," Santorum. said. The "amendment
adds money to the budget, but does not ensure that any of that money will go to Amtrak."
Nearly 900,000 people ride Amtrak's Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg and Philadelphia each year. Nearly
4.9 million people statewide board Amtrak annually, and more than 300,000 people ride Amtrak in Harrisburg alone.
The state spends $6.28 million to subsidize 44 of 106 Amtrak trains running east of Harrisburg weekly. But
service west of Harrisburg was reduced 50 percent, to one train daily, when the state rebuffed an Amtrak request for more
"We simply didn't have $2.5 million to continue that train. That's why the federal role is critical in intercity
rail," said Rich Kirkpatrick, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Any plans to privatize Amtrak could affect plans for commuter rail between Harrisburg and Lancaster. Like
many regional rail systems across the country, the Corridor One commuter system, to be running in as little as three years,
would rely on tracks owned and maintained by Amtrak.
"It would most likely have some impact, but it's unfair for me to try to speculate," said Jim Hoffer, executive
director of Capital Area Transit.
Appearing on "Meet the Press" on Feb. 27, Santorum said Bush's proposed cut was "not acceptable to me" and
predicted it would not pass.
He added, "Somebody has got to start to make tough decisions in Amtrak, and I'm going to certainly encourage
that to occur" to make cuts on unprofitable routes.
Santorum's office defended his vote yesterday, saying it would increase the size of the budget, though supporters
said the amendment only would maintain the status quo.
Santorum said he would work through the appropriations process to ensure Amtrak receives funding.
The issue is likely to resurface in next year's Senate race as Democrats immediately accused Santorum of
breaking his promise and voting against his constituents' interests.
"He owes his constituents an apology and an explanation," said Phil Singer, spokesman for the Democratic
Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., joined with mostly Democratic supporters of the amendment, which failed 46 to
52, to restore the funding for Amtrak.