Nancy Pelosi's $140 Million Fund for Rail Project Pulled Out From Senate COVID-19 Relief Bill
The Senate parliamentarian on Tuesday removed the $140 million appropriation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's rail project included in President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
According to a New York Post report, the Senate parliamentarian said the $140 million budget for the rail project was not under the so-called Byrd rule, which regulates unrelated items in budget reconciliation bills.
"The Senate Parliamentarian has now ruled that the BART extension from San Jose to Santa Clara does not meet the requirements of the Byrd Rule because it is part of a pilot project. Therefore, it will be removed from the reconciliation package," Nancy Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in the New York Post report.
Hammill added that a separate $1.5 million allocation for the Seaway International Bridge between Massena, New York, and Canada would also be scrapped.
Republicans had denounced the funding for the rail project near Nancy Pelosi's California district as wasteful. They described the rail project as an example of unrelated "pork" in the bill, which is being pushed through Congress without Republicans' support through special rules that allow a simple majority vote in the Senate.
Sen. John Barrasso mocked the rail project as Nancy Pelosi's "tunnel of love" ahead of an anticipated vote on the relief package later this week.
Rep. Devin Nunes from the Central Valley said that they already knew that part of the relief money is going to build a tunnel from Silicon Valley to San Francisco. Nunes noted that Silicon Valley tech oligarchs are the last people that need anybody's money and a tunnel, according to an ABC 7 News report.
But aides of Nancy Pelosi defended the project, saying that ridership for mass-transit plummeted during the pandemic that makes it reasonable to hike government spending.
Nancy Pelosi's Rail Project Fund Should Be Spent Elsewhere
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy argued that the rail project fund should be spent elsewhere. McCarthy said Republicans tried to redirect the $140 million fund to provide mental health services for kids, but every Democrat voted against it.
The project, known as Phase II of the BART Silicon Valley Extension Program, will eventually connect the existing Berryessa station in Northeast San Jose to four new stations in San Jose and Santa Clara. It includes six miles of track, some five miles of which will be underground.
Bernice Alaniz, a spokesperson with the Valley Transportation Authority, said this regional extension of the system would link the Bay Area's three biggest cities with a one-seat ride.
Bevan Dufty, a member of the BART Board of Directors representing District 9, said the fund is needed to accelerate or fast-track the projects.
More Exclusion in the COVID-19 Relief Bill
The $15 an hour federal minimum wage increase could not also be included in the Senate bill due to budget reconciliation limits. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with other progressive Democrats, promised to fight the decision of the Senate parliamentarian.
Meanwhile, the White House and the Senate Democratic leaders said they would respect the ruling but would continue to look for ways to get the increase through another measure.
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