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Election 2008

Obama Builds Rail Cred With Biden Pick

8:55 AM PDT on August 26, 2008

8_26_08_biden.jpgBarack Obama's standing as an advocate for investment in US commuter rail looks to have gotten a boost with his selection of Joe Biden as his running mate. Whereas John McCain is the Senate's sworn enemy of Amtrak, his colleague from Delaware is known as a "Champion of the Rails." Notes Daily Kos diarist MissLaura (via George Washington University):

Biden commutes to work each day on Amtrak and has been a strongsupporter of the beleaguered rail service. He is an originalco-sponsor of the Amtrak Reauthorization Bill (National Defense RailAct), S.104, introduced on January 7, 2003. Introducing an earlierversion of the bill with Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) on March 6, 2002,Biden stated, "For 30 years, I have witnessed Congress dangling acarrot in front of Amtrak's eyes, funding it just enough for it to limpalong. And I'll tell you, this has to stop.  Now is the time to commitpolitically and financially to a strong, safe, and efficient passengerrail system." Biden has been particularly concerned with railpassenger security, and has, in the words of communications directorNorm Kurz "worked furiously" to secure funding for Amtrak to upgradeits tunnels, hire more cops and bomb-sniffing dogs, build more fences,and add lighting to terminals.

Amtrak president George Warrington presented Biden with a "Championof the Rails" award in June 2001 and the American Passenger RailCoalition (APRC), a national association of railroad equipmentsuppliers and rail businesses, presented him its "Rail LeadershipAward" in March 2002.

As Matthew Yglesias (and MissLaura) points out, Biden's son serves on the Amtrak board. (R. Hunter Biden is the only Democrat among current Amtrak board members. He was appointed by fellow Yalie George W. Bush to fill a seat vacated by Michael Dukakis.)

So well known, or well publicized, is Biden's affiliation with Amtrak that it's already become a point of ridicule for Beltway media types. Undeterred, before heading to this week's Democratic National Convention in Denver, Biden made an appearance at the Wilmington station, which he has passed through each day for the last 35 years, to greet workers and passengers.

Photo of Joe and Jill Biden at Wilmington Amtrak station via Delaware News Journal 

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