Amendment would prohibit further use of U.S. funds on project
WASHINGTON — Congressional opponents of California’s high-speed rail proposal are working to ensure that a new highway bill won’t include more federal money for the project.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved legislation Friday that would authorize road, bridge and other transportation projects costing an estimated $260 billion over 4 1/2 years.
Part of the bill included an amendment from Rep. Jeff Denham, a California Republican, that prevents any of the money from being used on the state’s proposed high-speed rail system.
The amendment was approved strictly along a partyline vote with all GOP members of the committee supporting the measure and all Democratic members voting no.
California plans to build a high-speed rail system that would extend from Anaheim to San Francisco at a cost of about $98 billion.
Denham used to support the proposal but now says that rising costs and construction time projections have caused him to doubt its viability.
The highway bill essentially sends money to the states to help fund their top transportation priorities. Denham says he wants to make sure highway money is used for highways.
“This administration and the California Legislature want high-speed rail at any cost,” Denham said. “They will spend lavishly without a disciplined plan and say anything to get it done, but this amendment will prohibit highway bill money from being used on a project that is going nowhere fast.”
Despite approval at the committee level, Denham’s proposal still has a difficult path ahead before becoming law. The Senate is putting together its own highway bill, and that bill is not expected to include a similar amendment, as lawmakers are trying to keep it as bipartisan as possible.
Also, the House may not even pass the legislation. Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed to the bill, and the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group, is encouraging lawmakers to vote no because it increases government spending.
Democratic lawmakers in the state’s delegation are also concerned about a provision of the bill that calls for opening oil and gas drilling along the East and West coasts, and using the proceeds to help pay for the bill’s transportation programs.