In recent days, Fox News hosts and contributors have advanced the false claim -- pushed by Republican lawmakers -- that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid included a provision in the recovery bill directing that $8 billion be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. In fact, the bill does not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific project, and any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman.
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In recent days, Fox News hosts and contributors Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, Newt Gingrich, Trace Gallagher, and Charles Krauthammer have advanced the false claim -- pushed by Republican lawmakers -- that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) included a provision in the economic recovery law directing that $8 billion in funds be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. In fact, the bill does not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific project, and any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman.
The bill states that $8 billion shall remain available for the "Secretary of Transportation" for "projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service" and that the secretary shall "submit to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations a strategic plan that describes how the Secretary will use the funding provided under this heading to improve and deploy high speed passenger rail systems." The Joint Explanatory Statement of the Conference Report on H.R. 1 further states of the high-speed rail program: "The conferees have provided the Secretary flexibility in allocating resources between the programs to advance the goal of deploying intercity high speed rail systems in the United States."
Numerous House Republicans have pushed the false claim that the legislation directed money to the California-to-Las Vegas rail line during floor debate on the bill. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) stated: "Tell me how spending $8 billion in this bill to have a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is going to help the construction worker in my district." Similarly, Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) said: "[A]pparently the Senate majority leader has earmarked $8 billion for a rail system from Las Vegas to Los Angeles? You have got to be kidding. You have got to be kidding." And Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said in his floor statement: "Billions of dollars for a sin express train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Necessary? I don't think so." Additionally, during the February 13 edition of Hannity (retrieved from Nexis), Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) claimed: "There's $8 billion for this railroad train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. That certainly is put in there for Senator Reid."
Fox News hosts and contributors have echoed this falsehood. For example:
- During the February 16 edition of The Live Desk, co-host Trace Gallagher claimed: "Many are outraged over the $8 billion in it for a high-speed train linking Disneyland to Vegas -- 8 billion. And who might be interested in getting gamblers from Southern California to say, oh, I don't know, Vegas? Maybe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada?" Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer replied: "Well, that's exactly right. And that's the old politics that Obama campaigned against, remember. This train is really an atrocity. It goes from Disneyland, as you said, to Vegas. It should be called the fantasy land express. And it's a perfect example of the kind of hidden favors, handouts, earmarks that we thought we were going to get overturned and abolished under this new administration."
- During the February 17 edition of Hannity, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich -- in a falsehood-laden statement -- claimed that the law contains "$30 million to save a mouse in San Francisco as part of a stimulus package, $2 billion for [Rep.] David Obey's [D-WI] son, $8 billion for a high-speed rail to Las Vegas for Harry Reid," adding, "[I]f those aren't set-asides, I don't know what you'd call them."
- During the February 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed that "Harry Reid, under the cover of darkness, snuck in -- what was it -- $8 billion for that high-speed light rail ... from LA to his home big town of Las Vegas." Co-host Brian Kilmeade replied, "Yes, and hand-written in the bill."
In a February 17 Politico article, David Rogers reported that President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was instrumental in increasing high-speed rail funding and that "there's little evidence that Reid had a decisive role, although he was happy to see his name mentioned for the sake of voters at home." From Rogers' article:
But the administration never emphasized high-speed rail when the House Appropriations Committee was writing its bill in January, so no money was included. The first real request came only days before the Senate Appropriations panel marked up, and the committee had to scramble to find room for $2 billion -- in part by cutting other Obama priorities.
Last week, Emanuel greatly upped the ante, asking House-Senate negotiators for $10 billion for high-speed rail -- far more than either bill provided.
"I put it in there for the president," Emanuel said in an interview. "The president wanted to have a signature issue in the bill, his commitment for the future."
In fact, there's little evidence that Reid had a decisive role, although he was happy to see his name mentioned for the sake of voters at home.
"It's amazing. I'm stunned," he said in an interview Friday, hours before the bill passed Congress. "I'm glad I get the credit in Nevada, but this is Obama's No. 1 priority. This is his legacy issue out of this bill, because we need these high-speed corridors. ... I'll take credit but frankly didn't have much to do with it other than carry forward with what Obama wanted."
From the February 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Speaking of homepages, Barack Obama has another homepage for you to check out with this whole stimulus plan. It's called recovery.gov. All right, so there it is. You can see the live video of him speaking to you about the stimulus plan.
And you can also see, according to the website, where every single dollar that you contributed -- the 700 and however many billion dollars of stimulus. You can see where every dollar is going. Really? That would be fascinating if we can actually track every dollar.
DOOCY: Well, I'm looking at it, and I can't find the money anywhere yet.
CARLSON: Well, tax relief is 280 billion.
DOOCY: Yeah, I mean, they break it down, Gretchen, to the big chunks that we knew about: how much was going to be tax relief and how much for different programs and stuff like that. But I want to see the actual list.
You remember, Harry Reid, under the cover of darkness, snuck in -- what was it -- $8 billion for that high-speed light rail from --
KILMEADE: Yes --
DOOCY: -- LA --
KILMEADE: -- and hand-written in the bill.
DOOCY: That's right -- from LA to his home big town of --
DOOCY: -- Las Vegas.
CARLSON: I love this category --
DOOCY: I don't see that anywhere.
CARLSON: -- "other": 8 billion.
CARLSON: Oh, it's just 8 billion in the other category.
KILMEADE: That's like me with my expense report from the Super Bowl.
DOOCY: Yeah, we've seen it.
KILMEADE: I'm just --
DOOCY: That's a lot of catering, Brian.
KILMEADE: Let's just leave it at other, all right? You don't want to know.
CARLSON: Well, that other makes me a little nervous, but we'll watch it to see if that creeps up from 8 billion.
From the February 17 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
GINGRICH: Look, I think that the 2010 election may become one of the most important in American history. Unlike the Japanese, we have a very aggressive and vibrant competitive political system. We have another election cycle coming up awfully fast. And I think that the American people are very tough about these things.
If they watch the failure continue to grow and compound -- just as they punished Republicans in 2006 and 2008 -- they're about to start turning an eye on the Democrats, and when they look at, for example, $30 million to save a mouse in San Francisco as part of a stimulus package --
SEAN HANNITY (host): Yeah.
GINGRICH: -- $2 billion for David Obey's son, $8 billion for a high-speed rail to Las Vegas for Harry Reid -- if those aren't set-asides, I don't know what you'd call them.
From the February 16 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk with Martha & Trace:
GALLAGHER: Many are outraged over the $8 billion in it for a high-speed train linking Disneyland to Vegas -- 8 billion. And who might be interested in getting gamblers from Southern California to say, oh, I don't know, Vegas? Maybe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada? Let's bring in the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. He's also a Fox News contributor.
And here's the thing -- and Bill Kristol brought this up in his piece this week in The Weekly Standard, Charles. The House bill, the original House bill, had zero for high-speed trains. The Senate bill had $2 billion. What's the compromise? Well, of course $8 billion, right? It's the way things go in D.C.
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, that's exactly right. And that's the old politics that Obama campaigned against, remember. This train is really an atrocity. It goes from Disneyland, as you said, to Vegas. It should be called the fantasy land express. And it's a perfect example of the kind of hidden favors, handouts, earmarks that we thought we were going to get overturned and abolished under this new administration.
I think it's a big hit on Obama -- that and all of the other stuff that's hidden in the bill and that has become -- that has begun to come out. It's not going to hurt him right now -- his popularity is still high, he's in the middle of a honeymoon -- but in the end, all of these nicks are going to haunt him in the future.
GALLAGHER: And you talk about something like this, Charles -- look, I'm from Southern California. They've been talking about this high-speed rail now forever. This is not shovel-ready. This is not next-year ready, or 10 years ready. This thing could take -- if it ever gets off the ground, no pun intended -- could take 20 years to get done.
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it's the perfect example of why the stimulus bill was essentially a fraud.