Amtrak CEO Running on Lame-Duck House Chairman’s Borrowed Time

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Union Station in Washington.

Rep. John Mica may not be able to yank the Transportation Security Administration’s chain during his final month as chairman of the House transportation committee.

But he’s still got Amtrak.

Mica, the Florida Republican who ceded his bid to remain chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee past his term limits, hauled Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman before the panel today for the fourth time this year. And he announced two more hearings on what he refers to as  the “Soviet-style” Amtrak for December.

“Everybody’s focused on the fiscal cliff,” Mica said. “Sometimes people give me a hard time for focusing on Amtrak. But we have put $1.4 billion into Amtrak in the past year. We do have a responsibility for taxpayer dollars.”

Today’s hearing was benign by Mica’s standards, as he praised Amtrak for its work recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in New York. Yet he noted he didn’t purchase any food on his train trip to the Big Apple yesterday because taxpayers would have lost money on anything he bought.

At an August hearing, Mica brought hamburgers along to illustrate his criticism of Amtrak’s losses on food and beverage service. He followed that up with a press conference outside a McDonald’s, during which he pointed out the cost difference between the fare there and on Amtrak and, according to Politico, yelled at a passing train, “Please don’t buy the hamburgers!”

Today’s latest Amtrak hammering comes a day after TSA Administrator John Pistole sent word to Mica that neither he nor his agency will show up for a hearing critical of the security body tomorrow. Pistole said Mica’s panel, even though it helped create the TSA after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, doesn’t have jurisdiction over the agency.

Who has jurisdiction over Amtrak isn’t in question. So look for Boardman to return to Capitol Hill on Dec. 6 and 13 when Mica holds hearings on high-speed rail and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.


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