Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee plan to introduce an amendment to the $1.9 trillion CCP virus relief bill to kill funding for five transit projects that collectively would cost more than $175 million, The Epoch Times has learned.
The five projects were added in the 11th hour of House consideration of the gigantic bill that was approved by House Democrats in the late hours of Feb. 26, on a 219–213 vote. Two Democrats voted against the proposal, along with every House Republican.
Passage in the Senate is far from certain, as the chamber is split 50–50 between the two major parties. In her constitutional role presiding over the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris casts the deciding vote in cases of ties.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hopes to complete Senate consideration quickly and move the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk. Republicans in the upper chamber, however, have multiple procedural tools they can use to delay or sidetrack the proposal.
If the proposal makes it to Biden, he will sign it, bringing the total spending by the federal government since March 2020 in response to the CCP virus—also known as the novel coronavirus—to more than $5.7 trillion.
An analysis by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) concluded that only about 5 percent, or less than $100 billion, of the $1.9 trillion will be spent in 2021. The vast majority of the spending will be done between 2022 and 2028, long after the pandemic will have been over.
The five transit projects in the sights of Senate Republicans include these:
- New York City East Side Access—$70 million.
- Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor—$70 million.
- San Francisco 3rd Street Light Rail Central Subway Project—$23,121,562.
- Santa Ana and Garden Grove Streetcar—$9,407,272.
- Dallas DART Red-Blue Platform Extensions—$2,471,166.
All five of the cities that would receive the millions of tax dollars in additional federal transit funding are heavily Democratic, with public transit systems that require substantial government subsidies. Ridership of public transit systems around the country was severely affected by the economic and social lockdown associated with the CCP virus.
Amanda Thompson, the banking panel GOP members’ communications director, pointed out that each of the five projects has been heavily criticized as excessively costly and over budget.
The East Side Access project in New York, for example, was dubbed by The New York Times as “the most expensive mile of subway track on earth.”
The NY Times wrote: “The estimated cost of the Long Island Rail Road project, known as ‘East Side Access,’ has ballooned to $12 billion, or nearly $3.5 billion for each new mile of track—seven times the average elsewhere in the world.”
“The recently completed Second Avenue subway on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the 2015 extension of the No. 7 line to Hudson Yards also cost far above average, at $2.5 billion and $1.5 billion per mile, respectively.”
Similarly, the Senate source said, the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor has been under a grand jury investigation of multiple allegations of contract fraud and other problems.
The Hawaii project’s ultimate cost estimates have ballooned from $5 billion to more than $9 billion, prompting The Wall Street Journal to describe it as the “train through Paradise” that “turned into a debacle.”
The spiraling costs “are among the largest that transportation experts say they’ve ever seen. The cost has led to an extra excise tax on businesses, which can affect the price of goods and services, and it has hit tourists through an expanded hotel tax,” the Journal reported.
Earlier this week, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that a $140 million earmark to extend San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) System into the Silicon Valley region couldn’t be included in the Senate’s version of the COVID-19 relief bill.
The staff of the Senate Banking Committee’s top Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) discovered the Pelosi earmark, which wasn’t specifically named in the legislative text but was described in such a manner that only the San Francisco project qualified.
“Expanding Silicon Valley’s subway has nothing to do with COVID-19 relief and should not have been included in the House bill,” Toomey said in a statement.
“While I am pleased that the Senate Parliamentarian agreed with us that this earmark is impermissible, this bill remains a partisan, liberal grab bag masquerading as a COVID relief bill.
“Congress’ priority should be supporting the vaccine rollout process, facilitating the safe reopening of small businesses, and getting kids back in the classroom—all of which are essential if we are to restore our economy to pre-pandemic levels.”
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc