Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey appeared on NBC’s "Meet the Press" on May 17 and discussed the need for greater spending in the nation’s infrastructure in the wake of the deadly Amtrak crash.
“We should not be scrimping on investments in public safety," Booker said. "The lack of infrastructure spending is costing us lives in America. It’s costing every commuter. In my region especially, you see commuters paying over $1,000 a year in terms of damage to their cars, lost productivity."
Some Republicans have slammed Democrats for allegedly using the Amtrak tragedy to promote infrastructure spending. Booker labeled the detractors a “distraction” from the important issue of properly funding the public works system in the United States.
“We know unequivocally our safety as a nation, our air traffic, our aviation infrastructure, our rail infrastructure, our roads and bridges, is inadequate," he added. "We should be investing more. That’s unequivocal, unassailable. And for us not to do that in a bipartisan fashion is unacceptable to me. And it’s what we should be working on."
Democrats have been publicly criticizing House Republicans over the last week, blaming the majority party for cutting funding for Amtrak. Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut Amtrak’s budget by $251 million on Wednesday, just one day following the crash. However, this cut applies only to Amtrak's capital spending and not to its safety and operations funding. In addition, it is presumed that the crash was caused by excessive speeding, not infrastructure issues.
Sen. Booker seemed optimistic about future legislation to properly fund Amtrak, specifically in the U.S. Senate.
“On the Senate side, we’re seeing some movement on the idea that we must invest in this precious asset that creates so many jobs, so much economic dynamism,” Booker said.
New Jersey’s other Senator, Robert Menendez, agreed with his colleague, saying that additional funding should be lawmakers’ highest priority.
“I hope that this is a crystallizing moment for the Congress and it wakes up the conscience of people to finally act in the robust way that we need for the nation’s transportation system,” he said at Newark's Penn Station in New Jersey on Friday.
Photo Credit: ABC News, NBC News