President 'Amtrak Joe' Biden Celebrates 50 Years of the Rail Company
The man once nicknamed "Amtrak Joe" for his consistent use of trains to travel to and from his former job in the U.S. Senate on Friday celebrated half a century of the rail company.
President Joe Biden delivered remarks at an event marking Amtrak's 50th Anniversary as part of his Getting America Back on Track Tour at the William H. Gray III 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.
"In the past when I've ended up at the 30th Street Amtrak station, it's probably because I took the late train back from Washington and I slept through the Delaware stop -- literally, not figuratively," Biden joked at the start of his speech. "I only did it about four times."
"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," he continued. "It's an honor to celebrate Amtrak's 50th anniversary."
He was introduced at the celebration by a conductor who worked the route he used to travel during his time in the Senate.
During his more-than 30 years as a Delaware senator, Biden, 78, was known to commute back and forth from Washington, D.C., via a 90-minute Amtrak train ride, including early in his career when he left at 5 p.m. in order to make it home for dinner with his sons, Beau and Hunter, after they were injured in a car crash that killed his first wife and infant daughter.
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn previously told the Associated Press that Biden "knew just about everybody that worked in the station and the conductors and other people and Amtrak folks who were on the train for those many, many years that he rode the rail."
Biden had planned to arrive to his own inaugural ceremonies via Amtrak train, though those plans were scrapped in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots on the U.S. Capitol.
In his Friday appearance, Biden touted news proposals made in his sweeping $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which is currently before Congress. (Republicans oppose the spending as, they say, excessive and inefficient.)
"We have a huge opportunity here to provide fast, safe, reliable, clean transportation in this country. And transit is part of the infrastructure," Biden said. "And like the rest of our infrastructure, we're way behind the rest of the world right now."
Biden's plan includes investments in American highways, mass transit systems and electric vehicle charging systems as well as upgrades to current portions of infrastructure, including the electric grid and water pipes.
"It's not a plan that tinkers around the edges," he said of the plan in a March 31 press conference. "It's a once-in-a-generation investment in America unlike anything we've seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago. In fact, it's the largest American jobs investment since World War II. It will create millions of jobs, good-paying jobs."
He said he intends to fund the infrastructure plan, should it become law, with higher taxes placed on corporations, lifting the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent (a rate set by the Trump administration in 2017).
Republicans have been critical of the plan, with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell saying it "is not going to be apparently an infrastructure package. It's called infrastructure. But inside the Trojan horse, there's going to be more borrowed money and massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy."
"That's the reason why it's recovering, because we're investing," Biden said. "Look how rapidly it's recovered since we passed the last piece of legislation, and that legislation was $1.9 trillion. If we don't invest in this country we're gonna fall behind even further."
The president added that funding infrastructure was a job for the government, not the private sector.
"We rank number eight in the world in terms of infrastructure for God's sake," he said on Today. "Is the private sector going to go out and build billions of dollars worth of highways, ports, airports, bridges? Are they going to do that? And so, these are things that only government can really do."
Biden has said he hopes for the proposal to pass by the summer.