Lawmakers exchange blame over Amtrak funding

(WJLA file photo)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – Lawmakers on Capitol Hill tried to exchange blame for the Amtrak Train 188 derailment Wednesday as they battled over funding the rail service.

Not 24 hours after the derailment that led to seven deaths and more than 200 injuries, House members were debating about the level of funding for Amtrak. Democrats were pushing for a boost in the funding, while Republicans insisted on cuts.

National Transportation and Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall says the lack of funding is leading to unsafe rails.

"We are spending money all over the world for other people's safety and neglecting the safety of the American citizens," he says. "We haven't had a leadership in Washington, D.C. with vision on the subject of infrastructure for our nation since probably [President] Eisenhower."

Democrats agree and have pushed for a boost in the funding.

"Last night's accident is symptomatic of the kind of major commitment this country needs to make to fix our rails," said Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

Republicans think there need to be other solutions, but agree the failing infrastructure needs to be addressed.

"We operate a third-world rail system in this country," says Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.). "I've offered an alternative to let the private sector come in, better manage it, better operate and provide better service."

Republicans became defensive amid accusations that it was their funding decisions that led to the accident.

"And suggest that because we had not funded this properly, that that's what caused this accident when you have no idea, no idea!" says Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho.).

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) says the cuts are required to stay within caps imposed in the budget deal between Congress and President Obama to avoid defaulting on the national debt back in 2011.