Lawmakers discuss possible Senate vote on GOP health care bill

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group)- Lawmakers in Washington are responding to President Trump’s remarks that the GOP health care bill is “not that far off” from a passing vote on Capitol Hill.

Speaking to “Fox and Friends” Sunday morning, the president said he felt the republicans are “going to get there” with the bill. Trump said it would be ideal if lawmakers could “come up something that everybody’s happy with.”

Although, Republican Senator Susan Collins, R- Maine, said getting the necessary votes to pass the American Health Care Act could be difficult, in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

While the senator has not taken an official stance on the bill she admitted to having “very serious concerns” about the legislation. Collins feels Medicaid could be cut more than the House bill but she will wait until the Congressional Budget Office releases its analysis of the bill before making her decision.

Five Republicans currently oppose the Senate health care bill as it is written. Those GOP lawmakers are Nevada Senator Dan Heller, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, Utah Senator Mike Lee, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. If more than three of the 52 Republican Senators oppose the bill will not pass.

Johnson appeared on NBCs “Meet the Press” said the Senate should not vote on the bill next week.

“I would like to delay the thing. There’s no way we should be voting on this next week. No way,” Johnson said.

The Wisconsin Senator said that if the bill is voted on next week it is not enough time for he and his constituents to “properly evaluate” the bill.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D- NY, appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” and said the bill had “at best, a 50-50 chance.” The senator said that Democrats would be willing to work with Republicans if they agree to work to improve the Affordable Care Act rather than replace it.

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House Transportation Committee talks funding for modernizing US railways

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – The House Committee on Transportation subcommittee met Thursday to discuss modernizing railways in the United States. Specifically, the allocation of funds to make improvements to the Amtrak Northeast Corridor route and the construction of California’s high-speed rail project.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the 2010 Omnibus funding bill distributed funds for railroad infrastructure and an intercity and high-speed rail system.

House Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., feels the dissemination of funds for rail improvements has been “scattershot.”

“Rather than investing these funds strategically to achieve specific outcomes, the Obama administration distributed the funds widely, making about 150 grants to 34 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak. The result is that mostly incremental improvements were made across the country,” Denham said in his opening statement.

The congressman also stated that “$1 billion of the $8 billion in ARRA funds” will return to the U.S. Treasury if not spent by September.

Thursday’s hearing was an effort to hopefully prioritize projects that need an increase in funding.

Member of the subcommittee Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said President Donald Trump’s budget cuts will take away from these existing projects.

“This is becoming absurd. So, I hope today we can begin to talk today about the real needs of Amtrak and where we are really going to find the investment money that Amtrak needs for the Northeast Corridor and the national system,” DeFazio said.

Amtrak states that more than half of its trains operate at a top speed of 100 miles per hour, according to President and Chief Executive Officer of Amtrak Charles “Wick” Moorman.

In comparison, the Eurostar that travels to the United Kingdom, France and Belgium operates at an average speed of 186 miles per hour, according to the publication Railway Technology. The Italian Frecciarossa 1000 reaches speeds of 248 miles per hour, Trenitalia states on its website.

During Thursday’s hearing, Moorman said Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line accommodates roughly 820,000 passengers a day but needs vast improvements due to damage done by weather and wear and tear over time.

“We would not be good stewards of the assets entrusted to us if we’re not planning to rebuild and expand them as needed for the future,” Moorman remarked.

He emphasized that New York’s Penn Station needs vast improvements because it still operates on a 1934 vintage electric traction system within tunnels built in 1910. Those tunnels were closed when they flooded during Hurricane Sandy.

He continued that these infrastructure projects are “no longer nice to have, they have now [reached] the point of must have.”

Both parties in the committee worked together to reauthorize Amtrak funding for five years as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

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