May 14th, 2014
04:55 PM ET
6 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.

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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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. Jim

    While we DO need to invest in maintaining infrastructure, we DO need to do that prudently. We should NOT poor billion after billion into dubious projects that are already YEARS behind schedule, unless we're going to fire all (government oversight, contractor, etc) first. We also should work to cut the costs of these projects where possible (not using expensive union workers where it's not required or prudent), have stringent contract requirements (timelines, costs, etc) and stringent oversight, and ensure the allocation to projects is based on need and impact (NOT to friendly states as a job creation tool).

    May 14, 2014 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  2. Joe Plumber

    No worries – when the next bridge collapses they will blame him for that too.

    May 14, 2014 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  3. Dude

    Is this guy for real? He paints Republicans as evil on a daily basis! Partisanship? Look in the mirror! Wow, I find this offensive and I don't even belong to a political party. No credibility in my eyes. Do people like Obama think we are stupid?

    May 14, 2014 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  4. Tom

    Our infrastructure is designed for manufacturing – guess what we have no manufacturing.

    May 14, 2014 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  5. McBob79

    Is he still talking? Makes me tired

    May 14, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  6. Brian

    So building a pipeline to transport thousands of barrels of a particularly dirty form of oil across our nation makes sense, but building/repairing roads and bridges that everyone uses doesn't? Wonderful logic, Republicans.

    May 14, 2014 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  7. MPG

    Where did all the toll money go that was collected from drivers going over the bridge? That amount could easily rebuild the bridge, but I'm quite certain it was used as a slush fund for other projects.

    May 14, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  8. comen

    Obama has financially failed on every significant initiative, squandered the money, and accelerated the demise (eco firms failed, shovel ready job money squandered, stimulus money lost, obamacare billions lost to little and even no effect in cases. He has no experience in business or success in managing programs/ projects. Furthermore, he is a known liar and partisan bully. WHY would Obama think he has credibility now??? He doesn't! he is just clowning for the camera and his political party.

    May 14, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  9. libs suc

    Libs spin history to meet theie needs.

    May 14, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  10. why

    Saying you'll make better decisions an wise choices, well this isn't a wise or a better choice ..! Taking that bridge won't help the economy it's stupid plus the world is already falling apart mabe you should cement your brain together an make BETTER! Decisions then to tear down a bridge .. leaving good hard working workers going to school for nothing gas,food& electric isn't free you know!

    May 14, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  11. concerned citizen

    Am I the only one who see those GOP/Teatrools with weird names posting ridiculous comments against everything that could improve our economy, or is this a daily occurrence? Let's go against everything the President proposes? Just can't wait for November: you "Putin" lowers! I will have a party with all my neighbors, republicans and democrats, you know, us middle class!

    May 14, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  12. RDA

    Right-wing Republicans just keep getting nuttier and ever dumber. For years, because of their obsession with their own highly-mythologized version of Ronald Reagan, they have ignored the great Republican presidents of the past, such as Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eisenhower, largely because (1). Lincoln demolished what are now most of the red states in the Civil War; he ended, permanently, slavery; and he spent lots and lots of federal dollars on vast infrastructure projects (2) Teddy Roosevelt was a fervent conservationist, the most ardent presidential naturalist and environmentalist ever, and he tried to bring the vast corporate dominance over American society to heel (3) Ike warned Americans of the dangers of the military-industrial complex, and made it clear that dollars spent on wasteful and oftentimes useless weapons systems took food out of people's mouths and impaired our ability to improve our own society.

    But, amazing as it sounds, I bet that St. Ronald might soon come into the crosshairs of idiot Tea Baggers, especially if Obama keeps pointing out that, indeed, Reagan was a proponent of infrastructure projects. Obama should also point out, over and over, that late in his second term Reagan seriously proposed eliminating nuclear weapons, and - contrary to the myth that arrested adolescents like Grover Norquist always bleat on about - Reagan was not a Rock of Gibralter when it came to the issue of raising taxes. Reagan sponsored several "revenue enhancement" acts, when he saw that to do otherwise was insane. If Obama and other key Dems would begin presenting a factual portrait of Reagan rather than let conservatives continue to lie about him, the right wing in yet another fit of impetuosity might turn against Ronnie and tout as their new champion....Who? There is no one left for them to turn to. Their moral and intellectual bankruptcy has backed them into a corner. And there they will sit, twiddling their thumbs, drooling, and staring into space, like Sybil on the playground.

    May 14, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  13. josh

    I thought the almost 1T that was for shovel ready jobs in TARP was suppose to fix our infrastructure.

    May 14, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  14. ja

    The true roadblock party aka GOP

    May 14, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  15. jack

    "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'.”

    Nuff said.......

    May 14, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  16. Pheziwig

    You're the President. Don't like the bridge? Call for an air strike.

    May 14, 2014 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  17. Ugh

    This is pathetic

    May 14, 2014 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  18. bigwest

    They will stall like they always do, then when the republicans are in the white house again, they will spend like the dickens, and leave it up to the democrats to raise taxes to pay for it all. it is the routine of our government.

    May 14, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  19. Miguel

    Just shut-up Barack. You haven't ever run a lemon aide stand and you are clueless.

    May 14, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  20. curtis

    Buncha-hooie! All union workers getting paid. Shame we cant get the Dems to accept the pago mentality. They just want to spend spend spend to get re elected

    May 14, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  21. Westfield

    I as a democrat am totally disgusted with this President. He watches as the middle class in this country is destroyed while the only thing he fights for is the minimum wage workers and illegal aliens. Dies Americans even matter to this man. The sooner he is out of office the less damage he can do.

    May 14, 2014 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  22. Art

    "All the money the red states have to pay is caused by the liberals who move to the red states and refuse to work because the government owes them a living."

    That doesn't make any kind of sense...you're basically saying a small minority group of democrats are pulling down an entire red state – majority republicans.

    May 14, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  23. Jeff from NY

    I call for a national department of Engineering and Operations that operates at arms length from the push and pull of politicians.(yeah, because I can call for that?) Hard to get your products to market with roads, bridges, and ports falling apart. And given the fact that it's 2014 you'd think we could use some of our new found technology to build infrastructure that lasts much, much, longer with fewer costs. China has built 3d-printers that pour concrete and can build a small house in a few hours. Lets step it up!

    May 14, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  24. Let the People and our Diversity Be

    This from a President that is pilfering funds.

    What a guile and deceit !!!!!

    May 14, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  25. u laby

    Here's what I hear when he speaks ... blah blah blah blah lies. How can we believe anything this man says??

    May 14, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
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