Breaking News Emails
The moment was vintage Boehner.
When a reporter asked about House Speaker John Boehner's reaction to Democratic concerns over cutting Amtrak funding, the Ohio Republican didn't skip a beat.
"Are you really going to ask such a stupid question?" Boehner quipped.
He went on to deride what he sees as the Democrat's assertion that the Amtrak crash was caused by underfunding.
Officials say Amtrak Regional Train 188 was traveling twice the posted speed limit for the sharp curve where it derailed. The engineer, Brandon Bostian, slammed on the brakes at the last minute, but the train only slowed to 102 mph before the crash.
However, in the wake of a deadly Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia on Tuesday which killed eight people and left more than 200 injured, House lawmakers have hotly debated funding those types of rail services.
Democrats, who have long advocated increased infrastructure funding to Amtrak, argued that cuts to rail service imperils passengers.
The House Appropriations committee passed a funding bill that included a $251 million cut to Amtrak leaving it with $1.1 billion. The vote was 30-21 and fell along party lines.
“Last night we failed them. We failed to invest in their safety…we are divesting from America ,” Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat told members of the House Appropriations committee on Wednesday. “What we should have been doing was ensuring the safety of those passengers on the train yesterday.”
The Democratic push for increased infrastructure funding became even more prominent after Tuesday night’s crash. The crash also occurred during a week in which Washington policy experts, construction lobby and others press the case with members of Congress to increase funding to the nation’s transportation infrastructure — largely money for roads and bridges.
"There is clearly more that can be done when we're talking about a railway infrastructure that is decades-old," White House press secretary John Earnest said Wednesday on CNN. "If there's an opportunity for us to make further investments in our infrastructure that would better safeguard the traveling public, then those are investments that we should make."
In comments that were a direct reference to Democrats, Boehner said the details about the train's speed offers perspective on "the nonsense that gets spewed around here."
"Listen, they started this yesterday: 'It's all about funding'. 'It's all about funding'. Well, obviously it's not about funding," Boehner said. "The train was going twice the speed limit. Adequate funds were there. No money has been cut from rail safety. And the House passed a bill earlier this spring to reauthorize Amtrak and reauthorize a lot of these programs."
Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, challenged Boehner's comments Thursday afternoon in a statement, saying: "Speaker Boehner's comments are patently false. Experts have made clear that Positive Train Control could have prevented the tragedy in Philadelphia."
"It is simply a fact that insufficient funding for Amtrak has delayed the installation of PTC, and to deny a connection between the accident and underfunding Amtrak is to deny reality," he said in the statement.