After the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives for the 112th Congress, Republicans serving on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure announced plans to reignite efforts to crack down on what they allege are wasteful spending practices related to Amtrak's $1.5 billion in federal funding.
Sticking to one of the Republican party's campaign themes for the midterm elections, new committee chairman John Mica (Fla.) targeted Amtrak in an effort to uncover the misappropriation of federal funds. Mica said in a statement on his website, "The [transportation] committee will conduct vigorous oversight of Amtrak, which has a history of mismanagement and wasting taxpayers' money."
In September 2010, Mica joined Republicans Darrell Issa (Calif.), current chairman of House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Charles Grassley (Iowa), ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, in requesting an independent Department of Transportation Inspector General investigation into the removal of Amtrak's former Inspector General Fred Weiderhold. A report prepared by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Finance Committee claimed that Amtrak officials interfered with the independence of the inspector general's office, and removed Mr. Weiderhold from his post in violation of the law.
Mica said, "In recent years, the passenger rail service has been found to have improperly removed its Inspector General, spent millions on outside legal services without proper management or oversight, mismanaged the acquisition process for the Acela train, and poorly managed its food and beverage service." Mica alleged Amtrak loses "$2 for every $1" on food and beverage.
The Republicans said "the report's findings were sufficient to warrant the dismissal of Amtrak's chairman and general counsel," and they "requested that the DOT IG conduct an investigation in order to confirm the violations," according to Mica's website.
This term, Amtrak clearly has a bull's-eye on its back as committee Republicans appear to be committed to bringing its officials in for a hearing.