May 14th, 2014
04:55 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama to GOP: Tear down this bridge, and pay for a new one

Tarrytown, New York (CNN) – Saying that rebuilding America "shouldn't be a partisan issue," President Obama tackled the dense issue of federal infrastructure spending Wednesday. He called on Republicans in Congress to "not fight on something we all know makes sense."

Obama took Republicans to task several times for not approving funds that would replenish the nation's Highway Trust Fund, which could run out of money late this summer.

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He said states are already cutting back on projects because of the uncertainty, and that thousands of good-paying construction jobs are in jeopardy as a result. If Congress does not, "act by the end of the summer, federal funding for transportation projects will run out," Obama said. "There will be no money, the cupboard will be bare."

Obama told Republicans that if they didn't want to listen to him, maybe they should listen to some past GOP leaders.

"My favorite president happens to have been a Republican - a guy named Abraham Lincoln in my home state of Illinois." He added "it was Lincoln who committed to a railroad connecting East to West, even while he was struggling mightily to hold together North and South. It was a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, who built the Interstate Highway System. It was Ronald Reagan who said that rebuilding our infrastructure is 'an investment in tomorrow that we must make today'.”

The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop. The bridge is in the process of being replaced by a new span, and is one of several so-called fast track projects that the President used as an example of success stories he would like to see repeated across the country.

In that vein, Obama also announced an executive action to streamline infrastructure permitting at the federal level, and unveiled plans to fast-track 11 projects across the country.

"We're releasing a new plan for 11 more projects to accelerate from Boston South Station to Pensacola Bay Bridge, to new light rail projects north and south of Seattle," he said, adding that his order would cut "bureaucratic red tape that stalls good projects from breaking ground."

The push comes as the federal Highway Trust Fund is rapidly dwindling, setting up a so-called "transportation cliff" toward the end of August. Fueled by gasoline taxes, the fund hasn't been able to keep up with spending demands as Americans spend less on fuel.

Meanwhile, America's highways and bridges - and other critical parts of the nation's transportation infrastructure such as railways - need serious upgrades and repairs. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives U.S. infrastructure a D+ in terms of condition and performance.

In Washington, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California put forward a transportation bill earlier this week in the Senate that has received some Republican support. But there has been little support in the Republican-controlled House.

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus responded to the President's criticism, saying, "We already tried President Obama's effort to fix our country's infrastructure through his failed $830 billion stimulus. If the President is looking for a shovel-ready project, then he can get moving on the Keystone Pipeline which will create thousands of American jobs."

Wednesday evening the President attends two Democratic Party fundraisers in New York. On Thursday he is scheduled to address the dedication ceremony at the 9-11 Museum in New York City, before returning to Washington.

CNN's Jim Acosta, Kevin Liptak and Dana Davidsen contributed to this story.

Filed under: New York • President Obama
soundoff (668 Responses)
  1. lagergeld

    Pass the publicity stunt.

    May 14, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  2. S. B. Stein

    We need to have on going repair and replacement of roads and bridges. It is called preventive maintenance. If the Congress can't understand that there needs to be a regular funding for the way we move and communicate, then they haven't a clue as to what is going on.

    May 14, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  3. Hillary 2016

    ...Republicans are pathetically out of touch, continuing to drag America backwards, too busy spewing endless, shallow rhetoric & lies, instead of getting actual work done.

    May 14, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  4. Joe

    Republicans have a big advantage here. They know deep down in their stone cold hearts the invisible hand of God will pick up their cars and trucks to get them across the river, so they don't need no stinkin' socialist bridge. It makes perfect sense if you believe it.

    Otherwise, not so much.

    May 14, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  5. scott

    yea the government won't be able to spend anything.....they spend like drunk sailors now as it is

    May 14, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  6. Name Steven M

    Repubs loved to boast about the roads and bridges built in Iraq calling it "noble nation building", but even talk about doing it here and they scream "socialism!", their reckless hypocrisy is mind boggling.

    May 14, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  7. DirtyPIgs

    Ummm in 2012 Republicans wanted this. House Republicans will propose legislation on Tuesday calling for $260 billion in spending on transportation infrastructure for up to five years, an election-year proposal touted as a job creator in a tough economy. You are full of it Obama just keep trying to spin your failures away.

    May 14, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  8. jpmiller99

    Is Obama stupid or what? Comparing Lincoln's east-west railroad that enabled new commerce and trade to re-paving roads, which doesn't have any more utility than an existing road,, just shows how stupid he really is.

    May 14, 2014 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  9. pwanglee

    CNN: "fair and balanced"...NOT. Has a republican ever been given the "bully pulpit" by CNN? We all know the answer

    May 14, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  10. Michael Wheeler

    The roads need to be fixed... But Priebus is right, approve Keystone and get us to making money before you ask for money to repair roads and bridges. Obstruction runs both ways. Petty politics do as well.

    May 14, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  11. Oh Brother

    I know for a fact that his "high speed rail" north and south of Seattle is a lie. That line can't carry high speed passenger trains and the proximity of I5 and the river along much of the line prohibits its construction. In the 250 miles between Seattle and Portland the feds are spending billions and only a short 17 mile stretch can ever be "high speed".

    May 14, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  12. Luke

    I think you have to question the thought process of Mr. Obama who is out promoting jobs creation through government expenditure when he has the ability to create thousands of jobs through a privately funded project call Keystone XL. Increase the government spending or increase business spending. Seems like a simple answer to me.

    May 14, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. LHH

    This was President Obama's position in March 2010. He was aganst an increase in the gas tax which is what finances transportation repair and improvements. This is in testimony at Senate hearing and of course Senator Inhofe is speaking and he is a democrat. This was in response to hearing regarding the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill which would have increased gas taxes to fund infrastructure repairs.
    Today, as the American public continues to face high unemployment, imposing a gas tax increase on consumers, including families, farmers, truckers, and drivers in rural areas, would destroy jobs and create additional economic pain," Senator Inhofe said. "I appreciate the Obama administration for taking a clear stand opposing any such increase. Such clarity can help focus Congress on developing bipartisan solutions to strengthen energy security through greater domestic production and encouraging the commercialization of new technologies, such as natural gas vehicles. These solutions will help consumers facing high gasoline prices and will lessen our dependence on foreign energy."

    May 14, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  14. texasjimbob

    Republicans went to the White house on day three of President Obama's presidency. At the time, Obama and Democrats had total control of the White House, Senate and House. Eric Cantor tried to share ideas with President Obama for stimulating the economy and creating jobs. When Cantor pushed for small business tax-cuts, President Obama said,
    "Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won."

    May 14, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  15. Courtney

    Biden PROMISED that the Federal government was going to help with the Port of Savannah. All the politicans of the state were lined up. Democrats and Republicans. Then Biden had support dropped b/c GA was slow in signing up ppl for Healthcare Exchanges. For him to talk about politics is a JOKE!

    May 14, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  16. Johnny

    Someone posted an idea to use a gas tax increase to pay for road infrastructure. I think that is the right idea. That tax, itself, is directly related. The more miles you drive, the more you contribute to the depreciation of our roads. It's a highly fair solution.

    May 14, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  17. Lowe

    My red state, for example...the infrastructure is only being updated in specific areas where the influence and power of a few key people reign over the rest of the state.... The most liberal area of a very conservative state, with the state government being one of the most conservative in the nation. The local municipal government there has the highest local tax state wide. They pour it directly into the infrastructure too. The results...the fastest growing area on the east coast, economically. The schools, the best in the south east. Can't ask for much better.

    May 14, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  18. J Anthony

    Ria you are clueless and have no idea how the monetary-system works.

    May 14, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  19. Victor Maffei

    Not on your watch, Obama! We'll wait for 2017; maybe Rubio will do it and say it was a GOP incentive.

    May 14, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  20. raiseTheGasTax

    Funding? Doesn't our national gas tax pay for such things? Maybe it's about time you raise the gas tax. Nothing is free even if we are 17 Trillion in debt over 2 awful presidents, the current train wreck included.

    May 14, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  21. G_Edwards

    "to accelerate from Boston South Station to Pensacola Bay Bridge, to new light rail projects north and south of Seattle"

    Why are these Federal responsibilities? Are they each a segment of the Interstate system?


    May 14, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  22. Country Concerned

    I agree our infrastructure is a joke, it needs rebuilding, but not until the Davis-Bacon Act is repealed so we can get twice the infrastructure, half the cost, employee twice the number of people, and they would still have some decent paying jobs. Another major benefit is that we could eliminate the army of government employees that administer the program. Unions you need to get canned and loose your monopoly on the building construction using taxpayer dollars, that's our money you are stealing.

    May 14, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  23. Roads

    I am a republican and agree that the roadways need to be fixed.... The main problem I see is the cost of these projects. These jobs need to be bid out to independent contractors. I am so sick of driving on Chicago highways and seeing 3 union employees working while they are supervised by 3 other workers watching them. The constant aloted breaks are also a joke. These roads will be built better and faster by private companies and to me as a Republican is what needs to happen.

    May 14, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  24. kenman14

    Good grief, just a shameless chance to put himself in the midst of names of REAL leaders; what a pathetic, inept politician!

    Oh, and what about these excerpts: "...he said, adding that his order would cut "bureaucratic red tape that stalls good projects from breaking ground." Maybe he should consider the 5 years of bureaucratic bs on Keystone!

    "The push comes as the federal Highway Trust Fund is rapidly dwindling, setting up a so-called "transportation cliff" toward the end of August. Fueled by gasoline taxes, the fund hasn't been able to keep up with spending demands as Americans spend less on fuel."

    Are any of YOU paying less on fuel? For anything!?

    And, what about the $800 billion "stimulus", or the "shovel ready" jobs he got the funds for, what did all THAT money go for?!

    May 14, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  25. sheshie

    He is so pathetic.

    May 14, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
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