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DENHAM.JPGSparks flew briefly at a House of Representatives hearing Wednesday, the first in Congress to examine a series of rail accidents in the past year.

It began with some unfinished business between Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, who chairs the rail subcommittee, and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.

Denham scolded Szabo for not showing up at a hearing last month on California's beleaguered high-speed rail program. Denham has made many attempts to thwart the project, which is a priority for both President Barack Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Denham said he'd delayed the high-speed rail hearing by six weeks to accommodate Szabo's December schedule, which included his agency's investigation of a commuter rail crash in New York.

Denham blamed Szabo for delaying the hearing on rail safety, which Democrats had requested.

"You've held up our committee based on your schedule," Denham said.

Szabo responded that he'd agreed to testify on Jan. 14, but the hearing was changed to Jan. 15.

"I let you know I would not be available," he said.

But Denham said he only found out through a press release.

"You've got my cellphone," he said.

"I don't," Szabo replied, "but I'd be happy to take it from you."

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to reflect that Denham is from Turlock.

PHOTO: Rep. Jeff Denham , chairman of subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials, grills a witness during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Pete Marovich/MCT


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