The House on Tuesday approved a transportation funding bill that prevents Amtrak from receiving any federal subsidies for its food and beverage service, language that has the potential to end this service on Amtrak trains.
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) brought up his amendment Tuesday, and said Amtrak is currently violating U.S. law by failing to break even on its food and beverage service. Gingrey said Amtrak has been given more than $900 million over the last decade to make up for losses on this service.
“In 2012, a hamburger cost Amtrak $16.15, with riders paying $9.50,” Gingrey said. “This means that we, the taxpayers, are forced to pick up the tab for the remaining $6.65 through subsidies provided to Amtrak.”
Gingrey said Amtrak pays a lot for food service in part because it gathers more than 100 chefs each year for a spring meeting to examine new menu items, which include braised pork chop and spinach and mushroom frittata.
“When the average American is struggling to make ends meet, why are we throwing away money at Amtrak for these luxuries, especially when Amtrak consistently operates at a loss?” he asked.
Gingrey’s amendment was approved in a voice vote, a sign of strong support from both parties. Its fate will depend on what bill, if any, passes the Senate, and how the House and Senate agree to reconcile those bills.
The House considered a few other Amtrak-related amendments on Tuesday. One proposal from Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) would require Amtrak to eliminate its highest-cost route, and it was accepted in a voice vote.
Another Sessions amendment would have ended all Amtrak routes that have costs exceeding two times their revenue. But that proposal failed 167-250.