Details Concerning the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 and Amtrak Funding
After several months of warnings and four days before the U.S. Treasury debt default, Congress finally passed a legislative compromise raising the nation’s borrowing limit. The House approved the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 with a vote of 314-117, followed by the Senate with a vote of 63-36 the following evening. The President signed the bill into law on June 3, 2023.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act suspends the debt limit until January 2025. Additionally, funding caps are put in place for appropriations for 2024 and 2025. The law also enforces spending limits on non-essential provisions, which could lead to a reduction of $1.5 trillion in the deficit in the following ten years, as per the Congressional Budget Office.
Fortunately, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the Biden Administration reached an agreement to prevent a potential stock market crash that could have resulted in a recession and the loss of numerous American jobs. As a result, Social Security and Railroad Retirement payments will still be processed on schedule.
The U.S. government will continue selling treasury bonds to meet its financial obligations, and the military personnel will receive their salaries. This is because Congress acted in time to prevent a national default and its severe consequences.
How It Affects NARVRE Members
The recent bipartisan action has relieved NARVRE members, the National Railroad Retirement Investment Trust, and stock market investors worldwide. However, the Freedom Caucus seems to need to pay more attention to the significance of this agreement. They have disregarded warnings from the Secretary of the Treasury, who cautioned that defaulting would lead to an economic disaster. Such a default would also prevent the federal government from paying millions of Americans, including military families and seniors who rely on Social Security.
The Republican majority is now leading the committees in the new Congress. The House Sub-Committee on Railroads has a new Chairman who has openly expressed his disapproval of Amtrak and federal funding.
At a recent committee hearing, Chairman Troy Nehls and Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner had differing opinions on the source of funding for new rolling stock purchases. Gardner believed that the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” which aims to advance and finance Amtrak’s future, could provide grant funding for passenger rail improvements in the U.S. However, Chairman Nehls was not convinced and stated that Amtrak should not be allowed to participate in the grant program. This is not the first time Chairman Nehls has expressed his belief that federal subsidies for highways and airlines are more important than rail passenger train service. Despite his opinion, the American public continue to advocate for Amtrak and passenger train service. Of course, NARVRE is joining in this advocacy.
The Rail Passengers Association expressed concern that congressional Republicans may opt to let Amtrak suffer on the operating fund’s side of the ledger since they cannot access the new capital funds from the IIJA. This is reminiscent of an old, failed attempt to harm Amtrak. NARVRE is unwavering in its commitment to safeguarding Amtrak and the American rail jobs that support our railroad retirement system. We are honored to contribute to the efforts to convince Congress to do the same this year.
Come Together with NARVRE!
If you work for the railroad or are a veteran of the railroad and still need to become a member of NARVRE, we encourage you to join today. Our mission is to PROTECT, PRESERVE, and PROMOTE our railroad retirement funds. We aim to advocate for rail workers’ rights in Congress and keep you updated on matters related to your retirement. You can locate your nearest unit on Facebook, where you can access details about meetings and other relevant information. We hope to earn your backing.
Source: NARVRE July-August Newsletter, Gary Faley, National Legislative Director of NARVRE.
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