Amtrak privatization bill: ‘A rat hole worth watching’

June 23, 2011

WASHINGTON – Legislation to privatize Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, as a first step toward destruction of Amtrak, will almost certainly be dead-on-arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and will face a tough challenge in the Republican-controlled House; but the authors of the bill – House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and House Rail Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) – continue to press ahead.

And beyond the slim likelihood this legislation might pass both the House and Senate, it is highly unlikely to survive a judicial challenge.

According to the senior Democrat on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, the bipartisan Congressional Research Service reported to him that the Mica/Shuster proposal is probably unconstitutional.

The Mica/Shuster bill violates the Appointments Clause and the Takings Clause of the Constitution, Rahall said in referencing the information he obtained from the Congressional Research Service.

The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO warned that the Mica/Shuster proposal would cancel labor agreements covering all of Amtrak’s unionized workers, and eliminate coverage under the Railway Labor Act and the Railroad Retirement Act.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) previously said the Mica/Shuster bill has “no legs” in the Senate. Nonetheless, said a UTU official, “The legislation remains a rat hole worth watching, and our National Legislative Office will work diligently toward its defeat.”