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Cory B.
Democrat NJ

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  • Ensuring Tax Exempt Organizations the Right to Appeal Act—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Senator Cory A. Booker

    Posted on 2015-05-13

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    BOOKER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.



    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Amtrak Train Derailment Mr. BOOKER. Mr. President, I rise today with a very heavy heart because of the horrific tragedy that occurred and is still unfolding right now.

    Late last evening, an Amtrak train, train No. 188--a train I myself have traveled on--carrying 243 passengers and crew derailed in Philadelphia. It has been confirmed now that seven people have died, including Associated Press employee, husband, father of two, and Plainsboro, NJ, resident Jim Gaines. More than 200 people were injured. My deepest thoughts and prayers are with those who are suffering today.

    I am so grateful for the work of the hundreds of first responders, Amtrak crew, doctors, nurses, and many others who quickly, courageously, and very professionally did their jobs and who no doubt saved lives. As we speak, the search through the wreckage for more people, living or dead, is still in process. All people have not been accounted for, and I hope and pray our brave first responders can soon account for everyone who was expected to have been on board.

    The 243 people--including passengers and crew--many of whom boarded Amtrak regional train No. 188 just half a mile from where I stand right now--were headed to New York. They were on their way home, on their way to work, to see their husbands and their wives, their children, and their journey was horrifically interrupted when the train derailed around 9:30 p.m. in Philadelphia.

    Since the incident, my staff and I have been in contact with Amtrak, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Department of Transportation. The exact cause of the derailment is unknown, although speed was definitely a factor. We are in close contact with Amtrak officials and Federal investigators who are working quickly to identify exactly what happened to cause this disaster.

    Amtrak train No. 188 was on a very familiar path. So many people take this route. The train that derailed was traveling on the Northeast corridor, which is one of the busiest corridors, a 457-mile rail corridor that is the most traveled in North America. It is a transportation lifeline, one of our main arteries connecting the people of Washington, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The Northeast corridor transports 750,000 passengers every day and moves a workforce that produces $50 billion each year toward our gross domestic product.

    More people are traveling with Amtrak on the Northeast corridor than ever before. Just last year, 11.6 million passengers traveled the Northeast corridor. In New Jersey alone, 110 trains run daily along this route. New Jersey Transit works in cooperation with Amtrak to move trains along the Northeast corridor, where New Jersey Transit customers take 288,000 trips on the corridor each day and 63.6 million trips a year.

    Yet, none of these numbers--none of them--are as important today as that number of 243, the number of people riding on and working on Amtrak train No. 188 last evening, or the 7 people who died. We are in a time of great sadness.

    As the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that has jurisdiction over rail safety, I want to also say that my colleagues and I have been working in the Senate to develop policies and implement new safety technologies that will improve rail safety and save lives, and we have been working diligently to finalize a draft of a passenger rail authorization bill.

    Congress has not passed a passenger rail bill since 2008, and authorization for that bill expired in 2013. It is unacceptable that Congress has not acted to provide the needed improvements, investment, and long-term certainty for Amtrak, and I will work hard to make sure that we pass passenger rail, that it is a priority for this body.

    [[Page S2838]] In fact, today we had intended to introduce this bill authorizing funding and improvements to passenger rail in the United States. Today, that was our intention. However, in light of this tragic event, Senator Wicker and I have decided to monitor the incoming information and take this opportunity to evaluate what other actions might need to be taken as a part of the legislation.

    I am proud of my colleagues who have worked so diligently to ensure we get this bill done, and I thank the leadership, Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson, for their support. If there is an action that needs to be taken to improve safety in the wake of this tragedy as we are finalizing this bill, I know we can work together to make it a reality.

    That said, I must say I am disappointed in the direction of the House appropriations process, which risks starving Amtrak of vitally important funds at the very moment we need to be investing more in passenger rail and our country's crumbling infrastructure.

    Failing to make the proper investments in our Nation's infrastructure is indeed crippling our competitiveness in a global economy. A 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco report estimated that every dollar invested in our national infrastructure increases economic output by at least $2. Failing to invest properly in infrastructure improvement is threatening the public's safety.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends, and loved ones of the individuals who were killed or injured in last night's train derailment. We still aren't certain of the exact cause, but this incident is a searing reminder of the fragility of life. It is important that we also remember that we should do everything necessary to safeguard life, to make sure we have it and have it more abundantly.

    Nothing can fix the damage that has been done to these families and their communities. We all grieve as a nation for the loss of life and pray for those injured, that they recover.

    I say now that we must work tirelessly to prevent another tragedy like this from occurring and that we must do everything necessary so we as a nation can have a rail infrastructure and highways, roads, bridges--have an infrastructure as a whole that reflects the greatness of the people of our country.

    Mr. President, I yield the floor.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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