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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    It's time for people to stop being children and understand that the infrastructure that was built by sane people decades ago is falling apart now. Now is the time for the current adults in this country to take over and get the job done.

    May 14, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  2. Christopher

    I have been working in NY for 8 years. And for the last 8 years, they have been "working" on the Throgs Neck Bridge. Yes. That's right. 8 years of traffic delays, overtime, etc.

    May 14, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  3. Tom

    Why are we looking at Federal dollars for local projects? A coast to coast railway, cross country interstates, I can understand, a cities light rail project?
    This is just another example of the fed taking in too much money in taxes and then having to figure out what to do with the money. Fed taxes should go to Fed projects only, no transportation grants, no education dollars, no other block grants to the States. Lower the federal tax rate and let the states raise their taxes for their needs.

    May 14, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  4. Archer Mastett

    Is Obama just going to keep attempting to divide the American people until his very last day in office?

    He cannot seem to formulate a plan of action or make a proclamation without demononizing his opponents in the process.

    May 14, 2014 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  5. Luke

    I love it when the Divider'n'Chief tries to quote republican presidents to make his point. Too little, too late, Barak. Maybe you should try bridging the divide you've created between the parties before you talk about actual bridges.

    May 14, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  6. Ugh

    Seriously you are going to continue to blame then GOP after 6 years of failed policies? Most of us REAL patriots and Americans are just tired of your stupidity. I wanted Obama to win because I believed he would change us for the better but he has ruined us. Transparency? please, he is a liar and his gov has caused so many trust issues here and abroad. We are broken people, period. We'd need to wake up, our country and freedom is at risk. Stop backing candidates because of their party!

    May 14, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  7. wjm980

    We're 17 trillion in debt Barry. Any new spending that you want either needs to come from a corresponding reduction in something else, or Republicans will hopefully block it. These nutjob l&bs are so engrained with their tax and spend they haven't come up with any new idea in decades.

    May 14, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  8. Larry L

    The Republican plan has been about obstructing progress at any cost – since Jan, 2009. Republicans in the House won't blink an eye at allowing America's infrastructure to fall apart – if they can get votes from their radical right-wing base. These are the same folks who held America hostage and in doing so, cost American businessmen over $23 billion in lost revenues. These are the same weasels who have yet to send a jobs bill to the Senate.

    May 14, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  9. Cecil

    Seriously you are going to continue to blame then GOP after 6 years of failed policies? Most of us REAL patriots and Americans are just tired of your stupidity. I wanted Obama to win because I believed he would change us for the better but he has ruined us. Transparency? please, he is a liar and his gov has caused so many trust issues here and abroad. We are broken people, period. We'd need to wake up, our country and freedom is at risk. Stop backing candidates because of their party!

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

    The GOP won't be satisfied until America looks like another Somalia.

    May 14, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  11. E

    Soooooo what was the stimulus for then? Where did that money go?

    May 14, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  12. Eli

    Obama should invest in America instead of Syrian terrorist or Ukrainian Fascists.

    May 14, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  13. sadlyperturbed

    Republicans say they are for the country. They say a lot of things actually. But I don't judge people by what they say. I judge people by what they DO. And the GOP has done nothing for America in 6+years. Sure, they have spent millions trying to pin anything they can find on our President. They have wasted millions on their battle cry favorite, Benghazi alone. But what have they done for this country. Attempted to stop all people from getting healthcare, not once but 50+ times. And how much money did that waste? They have made certain we all know that poor people do not deserve any help. But those farmers? You know, the corporations who farm the land which once belonged to families? Those corporations got their money at the expense of those who rely on food stamps to survive. They have made certain that the top 1% get their share. I keep waiting for them to do anything at all that will benefit Americans. All Americans. But it has been a long wait and there are no results in the near future as far as I can tell. So judge them I will.

    May 14, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  14. The Tax Man

    So how come these funds are dwindling? Lord knows the federal gas taxes are at an all-time high plus most states tax the heck out of our gas as well as charging us property taxes on our vehicles – where has all that money gone? And now more and more states are tolling local highways in addition to increasing gas taxes! So where has all the money gone? And those damn electric cars and hybrids don't pay their fair share. How about taxing the vehicles per mile – no more gas taxes, only one tax and that is a per mile tax on each vehicle that uses public roads. Maybe based on the weight of the vehicle and the monthly miles driven so that the big trucks pay a higher tax since they wear the roads out more? But don't do this on top of existing taxes, do it instead of the current taxes. Should be easy as we know how many miles each vehicle goes from our annual inspections. Just read the computer once a month like the electric company and send a bill. Don't pay your bill and you cannot drive your car!

    May 14, 2014 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  15. chander

    President Reagan cut tax from 70% to 50% and tripled Debt & increased Poverty by 33% in one decade.President Bush followed suit &reduced Tax further thereby degenerating US Economy-Steep rise in both Debt & Poverty!President General Eisenhower did not Cut Tax but preferred to reduce Debt.President JFK cut Tax by 14% & also reduced Debt.All Presidents prior to1980 ;reduced Debt for almost 50 years with high Taxes ;surplus Budget and continued reduction of National Debt that made USA super Power & resulted in Mighty Dollar that has now one-third of its 1980 value.US Congress has absolute Power for Tax Policy & therefore see Truth of Tax Policy to ACT Now to Zero Debt & eradicate Poverty otherwise Asian countries will dictate terms to lead Global Economy.!
    Reasonable minimum Tax rate be 47%(50% of maximum Tax rate after WW II so that future generation will never ever face Recession that is caused by Tax Reduction Policyprior to 1932 & again after 1980!
    Will US Congress muster Couage & Will Power to exemplify Unity of One Amarican Family.God Bless America to do what is Best for all Americans!

    May 14, 2014 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  16. Raven

    Since when is it the Federal Governments job to hire people to repair STATEs roads....

    May 14, 2014 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  17. david

    Uh, the country is flat broke. What about all of the tolls collected at the bridges. Where does that money go?

    May 14, 2014 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  18. radar8

    Investing in infrastructure is investing in America's future. It is an excellent way to spend money. It will produce jobs. It will make the road and bridges better and safer. Large corporations need good roads and bridges to get raw materials and products to market. IT's a win-win.... except the GOP doesn't want anything good to happen while Obama is in office. They really are willing to destroy America to get back in power... to make Obama look bad.

    May 14, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  19. Vinod Megnauth

    When your administration is weak, does nothing, is worthless.....what's a man to do?....Blame the other side....

    May 14, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  20. DB

    Mr. President, Stop blaming congress but cut waste in your administrator to fund infrastructure.

    May 14, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  21. NoCanDo

    We don’t need no stinking bridges or roads. We got plenty of good dirt roads back home. Why make it easy or safe for city folk. Let’s keep our money from Big Government.

    May 14, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  22. Oleo

    What we have in America is our own fault. We can't blame the Republicans, Democrats, Chinese or any other group for our failures. Why? Because as a country, we continue to elect the same morons year after year who do the same thing – year after year – NOTHING. They can't get along. Compromise is a dirty word. Blame is their favorite sport. Getting elected is more important than running the country. As a people, we are so polarized that each side thinks they have all the answers and won't even consider another point of view. I could go on and on but I think you can get the idea. It really scares me to watch our beloved America become the laughing stock of the world. Until we as a country decide to do something different – we will continue our decline. I'm beginning to wonder if we can be saved from ourselves. Guess I'd better start learning Chinese.

    May 14, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  23. KJ

    GOP – no matter what the question the answer is, "What about the Keystone Pipeline?" lol

    May 14, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  24. Matthew

    What did he do with all that QE last time? He spoke of shovel ready jobs then said there was none. Those hundreds of billions of dollars could have went in infrastructure instead of the pockets of unions and bankers.

    May 14, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  25. David Steele

    His "home state of Illinois." Hilarious.

    May 14, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
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