Why I put a hold on the Metro oversight bill
By Tom Coburn,
Robert McCartney made a number of claims in his Aug. 12 Metro column, “Holding back federal oversight of Metro is a really lousy idea,” that displayed a lack of understanding of the arguments surrounding S. 3638, a bill that would allow the federal government to regulate the safety standards of Metro and transit systems nationwide.
First, borrowing $66 million over three years to pay for this bill is not an action that has “widespread agreement” among the American people. Even if 99 senators agree we should borrow instead of making easy cuts in a federal budget that includes $350 billion in waste, I’m more than happy to stand with the 80 percent of Americans who know this is a bad idea. Still, even if the bill were offset, I would not necessarily lift my hold.
I have yet to find a clause in the Constitution that gives Congress the authority to regulate subway systems that are, by definition, metro specific. Supporters argue that if the federal government can set safety standards for Amtrak and commuter trains, why not subways? In most cases, subways and other local transportation systems are not interstate systems, and therefore the federal government has zero authority to set regulations.
The fact that Congress and the courts stopped taking the Constitution’s Commerce Clause seriously decades ago is not a reason to continue on that path. Ignoring local government is a trend we have to reverse if we are ever going to recover economically.
If Metro is “tone deaf” regarding safety, as the National Transportation Safety Board chairman has said, The Post should demand a house-cleaning within Metro. Borrowing money we don’t have to spend on regulations we don’t need will not make Metro riders any safer.
The writer, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Oklahoma.
| August 16, 2010; 7:45 PM ET
Categories: Arlington, Baltimore, D.C., D.C. politics, Fairfax County, HotTopic, Maryland, Metro, Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Prince William County, Purple Line, Takoma, Tysons Corner, traffic, transportation
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