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White House warns of Amtrak-funds veto

It said wanted more accountability in a five-year, $14 billion package in the House.

WASHINGTON - The White House threatened yesterday to veto legislation funding Amtrak for the next five years, saying House members did not include language to make the railroad more accountable for its decisions.

House legislation would authorize more than $14 billion and set up a program of federal matching grants that states could use to set up or expand rail service.

The bill "does not include basic measures to hold Amtrak accountable to taxpayers for its spending decisions," the White House said in a statement.

For example, it said, the bill "provides scant opportunity for competition" on Amtrak routes and lacks provisions "that would condition Amtrak's funding based on progress on reforms."

Amtrak funding has been an annual sticking point between the Bush administration, which has pushed to end Amtrak subsidies and eliminate unprofitable lines, and supporters in Congress who say that no major national railway in the world operates without government subsidies.

The bill is expected to come before the full House soon.