WASHINGTON – House Republicans said they will push an inquiry into Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s use of an Amtrak charter train to campaign.
In a letter to Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer William Flynn, four GOP members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee asked whether the Biden campaign use of an Amtrak charter train on a campaign swing through Ohio and Pennsylvania last month drained resources from the struggling government-subsidized railroad.
“We are concerned that the apparent use of a struggling, resource-deprived, publicly-run service for political gain does not serve the best interests of Amtrak or the American taxpayers at this time,” wrote Reps. Eric A. “Rick” Crawford (Ark.), Bob Gibbs (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Lloyd Smucker (Pa.).
In its disclosures to the Federal Election Commission, the former vice president's campaign reported spending $265,000 on a “train lease.”
According to Amtrak's website, the starting rate for a charter is $30,000.
The congressmen said they “want to ensure that the campaign paid a full, non-discounted rate” for the charter train and questioned “whether the Biden campaign’s use of Amtrak caused delays of freight trains at a time when supplies are crucial” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Kimberly Woods, a spokesperson for Amtrak, told USA TODAY that "operation of charter trains is an important revenue source for Amtrak" and that "in this instance, the rate aligns with our standard practice and market rates that anyone seeking this service would be charged."
"There were no discounts or scheduling preferences," she continued. "The railroad industry has a long history of operating special trains for public officials on both sides of the aisle, and Amtrak has been part of that."
The letter comes during an election cycle where President Donald Trump and several in his administration have been accused of violating the Hatch Act by holding several campaign events at the White House — including several parts of the Republican National Convention and an Oct. 10 political speech.
The use of the White House as a convention backdrop was unconventional and came as Trump and the Republican National Committee scrambled to finalize details after pulling the convention from Charlotte, N.C., overCOVID-19 restrictions.
The Biden campaign raised the criticism in its response, with the campaign’s deputy national press secretary Matt Hill saying in a statement, "Anyone can charter a train with Amtrak. Last time we checked, no one can charter the White House South Lawn for a political convention."
"Instead of wasting time on political stunts, congressional Republicans should stop ignoring Donald Trump’s blatant abuses of taxpayer money and government resources to enrich himself and his businesses,” he continued.
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Biden’s affinity for Amtrak is well-known because of his daily commute for 36 years between Wilmington and Washington, D.C., while a senator from Delaware. The railroad estimated he had traveled 2.1 million miles on its rails.
On Wednesday, the Democratic nominee posted a video on Twitter detailing his love of the trains and defended his tour.
The Build Back Better Express Tour was about more than my love for trains — it was about meeting folks along the way and discussing how we can make their lives better.
They are the backbone of America — and I’ll fight for them every day in the White House. pic.twitter.com/HhJHo35DvD
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 21, 2020
Several presidential candidates from both political parties have used Amtrak during their campaigns.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: House Republicans question Amtrak over Biden train tour