My Vote For Obstructionist Idiot of the Year

As regular visitors to this space know, Amtrak has been kept on a starvation diet for many years, with barely enough federal funding just to keep operating. In particular – and this is fact, not a partisan comment – Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration have been the main culprits. Bush’s most recent budget proposal cut Amtrak’s funding by 40 percent which would have put the railroad out of business in a matter of months. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, but all this came at a time when Amtrak’s ridership is increasing by double digits.

However, there has been a full-court press in support of adequate funding for Amtrak during the current session of Congress by pro-rail groups and individuals. At the forefront, I am proud to say, was the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). The result is a bill just passed by the house that will provide Amtrak with a five-year commitment for just over $13 billion. This will not only guarantee Amtrak’s continuing operation, but it will also mean the repair and refurbishing of badly needed additional rail cars and locomotives as well as a likely, if modest, expansion of service.

The House bill (H.R.2095) has been sent to the Senate where ….


… Senator Tom Coburn, Republican from Oklahoma, will apparently “object” to quick passage. Under the rules of the Senate that’s all it will take to put off passage until next year, meaning Amtrak’s badly needed funding will be delayed even longer than that.

Coburn is a way-way-far-right conservative who has long been a critic of Amtrak, mostly on ideological grounds. Based on his comments today, he appears willing to hold up this critical funding because he doesn’t like the fact that Amtrak’s food service loses money. I am not making this up!

Senator Coburn’s action is obstructionist and counter-productive … political grandstanding at it’s worst, because earlier versions of this legislation have been approved by both the House and the Senate by veto-proof margins. It will pass and become law.

And yes, that really is Senator Coburn in the photo above. It pretty much tells you all you need to know about this selfish political opportunist, doesn’t it.