The House Republicans killed an amendment last night by Rep. Gerry Connolly that would restore $150 million in federal funding for Metro. Since the GOP opposed providing this funding, that is supposed to be used to make sure Metro is safe, they ended up ruling the amendment out of order just before 10pm last night. When you consider that this comes just one year into a 10 year agreement that was made to improve Metro safety and Connolly’s amendment would have offset the cost by reducing federal farm subsidies to large agribusinesses, this move is yet another prime example of how the House Republicans are willing to do harm to the general public just to satisfy the Tea Party element of their party.
What’s also very interesting is that so many of the right wing likes to argue that they stand up for state rights, but the decision to kill the federal funding of Metro is actually one that can harm to the states. This is because it was just in the last Congress that legislation passed authorizing the $150 million annual federal payment to Metro. The money was going to be matched by Virginia, Maryland, and DC so that there could be safety and infrastructure improvements to the Metro system. In what Connolly said is an “egregious abrogation of the contract Congress made with the states and DC,” the states might be left to come up with the rest of the money for these necessary safety improvements. With the states having to make major cuts to their own budgets, it’s likely the states won’t increase their payments which means many of the so more than $1 billion in needed Metro safety improvements identified by the National Transportation Safety Board won’t be made.
Now in addition to making a heavily used public transit system safer, there are some obvious benefits to the federal government in making sure that Metro is running safely and efficiently. As Gerry Connolly points out, for instance, a large portion of Metro’s riders are federal employees. “There is no bigger beneficiary of the Metro system than the federal government,” Connolly said. “More than 40 percent of federal employees commute on Metro every day and the federal government provides no subsidy to Metro other than this $150 million annual payment.”
Connolly then went on to say that “this legislation jeopardizes everything we’ve tried to do, in a bipartisan manner, to improve Metro safety.” He also suggested that a failure to keep Metro running safely could potentially lead to a government shut down since so many federal employees get to work on the Metro.
“There is talk that a failure by the Congress to pass the continuing appropriations resolution could force the government to shut down on March 4,” Connolly said. “I suggest that failure to amend the bill to retain the federal funding of Metro could have a similar effect if the money isn’t available to keep Metro safe and functioning efficiently.”
This is important to note because it’s not like the tea party driven House Republicans are just trying to kill a pet project of the left. The funding that was killed truly is something that will help federal workers get to their job and keep people safe. When you also consider that Metro is how people get to private sector jobs all across the area and get places where they spend money, making sure Metro is running smoothly is something that can help the region’s economy. But as we’ve seen time and time again, the GOP’s leadership has been more interested in discussing abortion and other social issues during this Congress instead of focusing on the economy.