Notes from Netroots Nation
For the fourth year in a row I’m at the Netroots Nation convention, held this year in Minneapolis. It’s my first time in the Midwest, and I’m enjoying it here so far. Of course, it also means I’m busy, so posting is a bit more sporadic than usual.
I did get a chance to speak with Congressman John Garamendi, who represents California’s 10th District. We talked about the politics of high speed rail, and here’s some of what he had to say:
• House Republicans have been trying to claw back the remaining HSR funds for a while now. The recent plan to take that money and use it for flood relief is just the most recent example. Getting that money obligated and out of the hands of the House is a high priority.
• One reason it’s a priority: John Mica, the Florida Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee, seems to oppose spending on HSR projects other than the Northeast Corridor. Garamendi speculated that once Florida governor Rick Scott killed that state’s HSR project, Mica became much less interested in national projects.
• Speaking of Mica, Garamendi said the notion of privatizing the Northeast Corridor and potentially gutting or privatizing Amtrak was a real threat. He urged activists to start organizing and rallying the public to contact their members of Congress to oppose cuts and/or privatization.
More broadly, one thing a lot of people are talking about here is the possiblity of Democrats retaking the House in 2012. It is a much greater possibility than many realize, although Republican gerrymanders in other states will be a new hurdle. Many HSR opponents in California assume that Republican control of the House is a permanent thing, that we can never expect any more federal HSR funding because of the Republicans. But that seems like a pretty flawed assumption to make. Depending on how things go, HSR funding could be in a very good position come January 2013.