Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 31, 2015

The New Senator From Amtrak? (Video)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Chris Coons is following in the footsteps of two predecessors, including the current vice president, taking up the cause of Amtrak.

The Delaware Democrat has filed an amendment to the Transportation-HUD spending bill to boost Amtrak funding by $113 million, bringing the total for the account up to $1.565 billion. The amendment doesn’t include an offsetting cut to another part of the bill, likely causing an issue for the top-line spending level.

Senators have just begun to process amendments to the $54 billion fiscal 2014 appropriations measure.

In announcing his plan Wednesday, Coons quoted from remarks made earlier this year by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., at the funeral of New Jersey Democrat Frank R. Lautenberg.

“If it wasn’t for Frank, Amtrak wouldn’t be what it is today,” Coons quoted Biden as having said.

Coons was elected to the Senate to fill the open seat created by Biden’s resignation. During his 36 years in the Senate, Biden rode the Amtrak train back to Wilmington every night. Lautenberg championed Amtrak spending from his seats on both the Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Coons became an appropriator following Lautenberg’s passing.

“Amtrak … in this region in particular, isn’t a luxury — it is a fundamental and critical part of the economy. Not just in my home state of Delaware, in at least a dozen states on the Atlantic seaboard, but across the country, for communities that rely on passenger rail to connect with the nation’s major economic centers,” Coons said on the Senate floor.

Like Biden, Coons regularly commutes between Delaware and D.C. He has a way to go before he achieves Biden’s all-star status, though. The Wilmington Amtrak station is officially named for Biden, and he’s appeared on the cover of “Arrive,” Amtrak’s onboard magazine.

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