Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) cut cake and scooped ice cream during a ceremony to celebrate the volunteers who helped restore and now staff the Amtrak station in downtown Kirkwood.
“We are celebrating the best of this community, which are the kind people who decided this train station is worth saving,” McCaskill said. “It’s now recognized as one of the best train stations in the country.”
McCaskill also read a letter of thanks from Vice President, and vocal Amtrak supporter, Joe Biden.
Ten years ago Amtrak had to pull its ticket agents from the station due to budget cuts, that’s when volunteers stepped in to fill the void. From helping passengers get onto trains to installing flower boxes, around 70 community members now help maintain the historic rail stop.
“When we originally started we told them come an hour before the train, then stay twenty minutes or so after, then go home, lock up,” said Station Manager Bill Burkhalter. “That lasted about a month, now they stay all day. We’re almost hope 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, then we open back up at 8 p.m.
Burkhalter said ridership at the station has jumped in recent years, with more customers looking to take day trips on the River Run line to visit places like Herman, Mo., where wineries dot the hilly rural town.
“This is a national example of what happens when a town engages with us and the service,” said Amtrak Spokesman Mark Magliari.
Immigration and DOMA
After the event, McCaskill discussed the future of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed out of the U.S. Senate on Thursday and now faces an uncertain path in the House.
McCaskill, who voted for bill that was crafted by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” said its fate may now rest in the hands of Tea Party members in the House.
“It just depends on whether the Tea Party will allow the bill to come out of the Republican Caucus and onto the floor of the House,” McCaskill said. “Now we will all wait anxiously to see if Speaker Boehner will allow the House of Representatives to vote on it.”
That may not happen, though, and Boehner said shortly before the bill passed in the Senate that he would not bring it up for a vote in the House.
McCaskill also discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
“We have no business interfering with individual freedoms that have to do with who you love,” McCaskill said.
Despite the ruling, it is unlikely that a majority of lawmakers in the GOP controlled Missouri House and Senate will pass a bill that does in fact allow gay marriage in the state.
On that point, McCaskill said legislators are out of step with the rest of Missouri.
“There are a lot of Todd Akin wannabes in Jefferson City, it is time that many of us work harder at making sure Missourians realize that,” McCaskill said.
In contrast, earlier this week Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision: “I believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage and believe that it should be up to states’ to determine the definition of marriage. The people of Missouri have spoken and over 70% of Missourians’ decided that marriage should be between one man and one woman. I will always support states’ rights and the people of Missouri have made their decision.”
Go here for additional reactions to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd