By Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner had had it with questions from Democrats – and reporters – about congressional funding for Amtrak and Tuesday’s deadly derailment of a Northeast Corridor passenger train in Philadelphia.
"Are you really going to ask that? That’s a stupid question," Boehner told a reporter who prefaced an Amtrak funding question with complaints by Democrats. "Yeah, they started this yesterday. It’s all about funding. It’s all about funding."
Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the derailment wasn’t about money because the train with 238 passengers and five crew members aboard was traveling through a section of Northeast Philadelphia at over 100 miles per hour, double the regulated speed for that section of track. Eight people were killed in the wreck.
"The train was going twice the speed limit," he said. "Adequate funds were there, no money’s been cut from rail safety, and the House passed a bill this spring to reauthorize Amtrak and authorize a lot of these programs."
He scolded reporters: "It’s hard for me to imagine that people take the bait on some of the nonsense that gets spewed around here."
The House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday to cut Amtrak’s annual subsidy from $1.4 billion to $1.1 billion. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday that "Republicans have been very much against Amtrak for a very long time."
Getting "people to and from work, saving time, quality of life, cleaning the air and the rest, and for some reason, it (Amtrak) has just been opposed by some – not all, by some in the Republican Party," she said.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who regularly rides Amtrak between Washington and home state Pennsylvania, said part of rail system’s problem on Capitol Hill is that it "dedicates a lot of resources to places where they don’t have many customers."
"There’s a lot of trains running empty around the country when there is a corridor in the Northeast that is running full," Toomey said Thursday on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe." "I’m on Amtrak all the time. And often the trains sell out. I think it’s a legitimate question about how the resources get allocated."
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told CNN Thursday that lawmakers "don’t know whether there’s a connection between what happened the other night and funding."
"There may be a connection. There may not be," Casey told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. "But I think for either side to say they know is really premature. So I think all of us – whether you’re a member of Congress or whether commentators or citizens, I think we should indulge in a little bit of humility and wait until we have facts."