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1970 (Oct.) White House Debate Whether to Sign the Amtrak Bill

Collection of internal White House and Bureau of the Budget memos from October 1970 on whether or not the President should sign or veto H.R. 17849, the Rail Passenger Services Act, which created Amtrak. This PDF file includes:

  • An October 16, 1970 USDOT information packet on the “Railpax” bill.
  • A memo on the same date from White House domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman to Transportation Secretary John Volpe saying that any spending in the final Railpax bill in excess of that requested by the Administration would be impounded.
  • Two memos dated October 21, 1970 describing Ehrlichman’s “serious reservations” about the bill, one of which quotes Ehrlichman as saying that “whether or not the President will sign the bill is ‘up in the air’ at this time.”
  • A confidential October 27, 1970 memo to Ehrlichman from business and economic adviser Peter Flanigan concluding that “unless the President is prepared to risk Secretary Volpe’s resignation, I would recommend that he sign the Railpax bill.”
  • An October 28, 1970 letter from the head of the Association of American Railroads recommending that the President sign the bill.
  • The October 29, 1970 enrolled bill memo from the Bureau of the Budget summarizing the bill that had been presented to the President and listing the divided opinions of his advisors as to whether or not he should sign it.
  • A memo on the same date from Budget Director George Shultz to President Nixon explaining his recommendation that the President veto the bill, to which was attached an October 27 letter from Council of Economic Advisers chairman Paul McCracken recommending the same.
  • An October 30, 1970 memo to Ehrlichman from Ehrlichman’s deputy┬áKen Cole discussing Congressional views on the Railpax bill and forwarding an October 29 memo from White House legislative affairs staffer Bill Timmons recommending that the bill be signed. Cole’s memo also relays a conversation between George Shultz and John Volpe in which Volpe said he thought he should not send a letter with his views to the President, but Shultz told him to send the letter anyway.
  • An October 30, 1970 letter to Nixon from Volpe urging him to sign the bill. The letter has a handwritten postscript from Volpe: “Mr. President – My credibility on Capitol Hill will practically be destroyed if this bill is vetoed, and it could well cost us Win Prouty’s [GOP Senator from Vermont] seat. John.”

President Nixon signed the bill into law on October 30, 1970 as Public Law 91-518 but there was no public signing ceremony or signing statement.

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