Rep. Fattah calls for more infrastructure spending

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 15, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, in light of this Amtrak crash, there's been a big sort of reassessment as to whether we need to put more money in infrastructure.

Among those, Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah, who says that, if we don't boost spending on these type of projects, we're going to have more accidents like this.

Congressman, good to have you.

REP. CHAKA FATTAH, D-PA.: Well, it's good to be with you, but not under this circumstances, Neil.

CAVUTO: I hear you. And my best for your state and your residents.

But I'm wondering, Congressman, is it fair to say that infrastructure spending is the issue, when, in fact, the mechanism and the technology in place to have slowed that train down was there and it was sort of shipped and waiting to be installed? So, it wasn't for lack of funding. It may be for lack of manpower to get it up and running, but it was there.

So is that fair to say, and to take this incident as a chance to push for more infrastructure spending?

FATTAH: Well, you know, the appropriations meeting on transportation was scheduled weeks ago for yesterday. It had nothing to do with this accident in Philadelphia.

The cuts that were decided on by the majority to the president's request to cut it by $1.3 billion, that was decided in subcommittee two weeks ago.  Right? So, none of this was done -- neither the scheduling of the meeting or the cuts were not put in place because of the accident.

My amendment, just like every year I fought for Amtrak funding, I was fighting for Amtrak funding. And many years, Republicans have been trying to cut Amtrak. Right?


CAVUTO: But would those cuts -- and I know you have been -- but would that have been -- have made any difference in this tragedy?

FATTAH: Well, I said yesterday in the committee room and I said it again, and I will say it again. That has nothing to do with this accident, right, about a train going around a curve in Philadelphia.

We're responsible for the infrastructure in the country. So whether a bridge in Indianapolis or a highway buckles somewhere, we have a responsibility to try to make the investments. Now, the World Economic Forum says that we're now 12th in the world amongst countries in terms of infrastructure investment.

CAVUTO: No, no, no. I know the big picture, sir. But I'm just thinking, you -- maybe with all good and right intentions, you're using a tragedy to make a point that isn't really relating to this, that this had nothing to do...


FATTAH: Well, I didn't -- yes.

CAVUTO: This had nothing to do with infrastructure spending.

FATTAH: But here's the choice, Neil.

CAVUTO: Now, to be fair, you had been bemoaning infrastructure spending for quite some time.


CAVUTO: But what I think is a little creepy is this notion that that contributed to this. It didn't.

FATTAH: Yes. See, I didn't set the meeting yesterday. I didn't make the cuts. I had a choice. I could be at the meeting and offer an amendment to restore, or I could be there and agree with the cuts.

So it's my job -- and I have done it for 20 years, right -- to fight on behalf of Amtrak. It's a very important institution, mode of transportation for the people I represent. And I fought for it when Bush tried to zero it out. I fought for it. The previous congressman, Bill Gray, fought for it. So, the country knew about it, all right?


CAVUTO: And you had a long history of saying, we can -- we got to beef up.  And we can argue about whether the money we spend on infrastructure is enough or not.

But I think, in this particular case, what I guess is at least creeping me out, Congressman, is that it appears, maybe not in your case, but there was this pell-mell push on the part of many to say, because of this, we have to spend more on infrastructure. There is no quid pro quo. Right?

FATTAH: But there are Republican congressmen from Pennsylvania who said the same thing, but...


CAVUTO: But that's not right. Right? That's not right. That's actually wrong. Right?


FATTAH: Let me just get this half-a-sentence out.

I didn't set the meeting. I didn't make up the number. The president and his experts in transportation made a suggestion to the Congress of a number, $2.4 billion, for safety and capital improvements. The Congress decided, the majority decided to cut it by 1.3.

I stood up and said, let's restore it to the president's number.

CAVUTO: All right.

FATTAH: And there was a vote. And some members voted to restore the president's numbers and some voted the other way. I didn't win on yesterday.

And what I said then and what I say now is that no one is blaming anyone for the accident in Philadelphia. But we are responsible for the infrastructure in our country. And we have to make these investments.

CAVUTO: All right, but those investments, just to be clear, can't stop, if it ultimately proves, an engineer from speeding when he shouldn't be speeding, can't stop that. Right?

FATTAH: You can have the best highway in the world.

CAVUTO: Right.  FATTAH: You can't control what a driver does. We don't know the final result.

CAVUTO: We do not. You're right.

FATTAH: And whether there was some mechanical problem.

CAVUTO: Right.

FATTAH: The point here is, we need to invest in our infrastructure as a nation. We have now fallen to 12th in the world, or we can say it's fine, if we want it the way it is.

CAVUTO: Congressman, I know you had a busy day today. I appreciate your taking the time.

FATTAH: Thank you.

CAVUTO: Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah from, again, the good state of Pennsylvania. They're in a world of hurt right now.  

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