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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    In fairness, THOSE Republicans cared about America. Today's Republicans are ideological descendents of slave-owning secessionist traitors. Not much has changed has it?

    May 14, 2014 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  2. VicMorrow

    18 cents is collected from American drivers for every gallon of fuel purchased (more than 44 million gallons a day). That money rolls in 24 hours a day 7days a week 365 days a year. The total amount collected increases each year as more drivers travel more miles. This would be plenty of money to sustain the Federal Highway Trust Fund if the politicians, mostly Democrats, hadn't been looting it for years to fund things other than the highways and bridges it was created to fund. This misappropriation of funds has been one of the largest in US history.

    The cost of a mile of pavement has increased 20x since 1965 due to the debasing of our dollar by reckless Federal spending in excess of revenues. 17 trillion and counting. This hurts us all and costs us more for everything, but in the present case its impact on the purchasing power of the highway trust fund is also adversely affected. Again that's mainly due to mishandling of government funds. Now Obama wants us to give him more? Insanity.

    May 14, 2014 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  3. Kenny

    The federal government and the states make more money from gas tax than the oil companies take in in profits. I'm not interested in giving them any more money to waste. I use to work for the county and they paid people to stand around and do nothing. Then when they do fix something you wish they hadn't. It's a joke. We, not me, voted in a quarter percent sales tax to fix our local roads very little was done and all the promises made to get it to pass were lies. Sounds oddly familiar. My city doesn't have enough sense to pay $10 to adjust a sprinkler that is destroying a million dollar road. Now they want more money. No!

    May 14, 2014 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  4. jimmy

    PRIEBUS- What have you done for AMERICA lately except shut her down in hope of electing a Republican.

    May 14, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  5. John

    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."

    Note to Obama: The cupboard is ALREADY BARE you . . . !!!!

    May 14, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  6. Scott

    Reince Priebus should crawl back into his cave. His dumb outburst just shows he is part of the problem in Washington. We need the federal government to invest in infrastructure as well as to allow the pipeline to be built. Other parts of the budget can be cut to make way for more infrastructure spending. Infrastructure spending is required for economic growth.

    May 14, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  7. Greg Clapton

    The BIGGEST LIE of them all! The Pipeline does not even create ONE new job!

    Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus responded to the President's criticism, saying, ".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."

    May 14, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  8. R

    I love the politics and the spin. 2 projects in democratic strongholds – buy votes. State that republicans unwilling to approve infrastructure porojects that would bring jobs., yet the president is unwilling to approve the Keystone Pipeline with perhaps 100k jobs and securing our energy independence. I believe both sides suck. I have an idea – compromise: Republicans approve infrastructure projects if Dems approve keystone – a win-win!

    May 14, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  9. Jojo

    Why do we need federal money to pay for roads?! Excuse me but where is the state money for each states road and bridge repair? Here in wonderful MD, our lottery and casinos were supposed to pay for state road repair. Where is that money?

    May 14, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  10. Eric Eaton

    How about some cash for the new bridge plaza on the Detroit side of the international border!? 250 million is a lot of cash, I know, but the benefits resulting from this investment, especially in one of the most hardest hit areas in your country, would be incredible for Detroit, and for the U.S.A.!!

    May 14, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  11. allenwoll

    Tax gas against PRICE, not against GALLON ! !

    May 14, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  12. JM from Texas

    This coming from a president that has intentionally delayed a transportation infrastructure permit for 6 years that would instantly create thousands of high paying construction jobs, provide energy security to America and doesn't require a dime of taxpayer's money…the Keystone pipeline. I wonder how he can deal with the hypocrisy of his statements.

    May 14, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  13. greggteslovich

    Parallels: Look back at the Great Depression of the early thirties and what Pres. Roosevelt pushed as part of his New Deal solution.
    The result: Recovery from an economic crisis that most everyone alive today can barely comprehend but are certainly enjoying the fruits of those New Deal dams and roadways that transformed our country into what we have today.
    The critics: Republicans opposed it because it was more government interference into their "free economy" and they loudly labeled it socialism for good media measure.

    May 14, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  14. Working Dude

    Have Obama actually say a real cut this year to pay for it. He wont. He only spends. He has to pay or bribe all the fed employees that vote democrat.

    May 14, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  15. lerianis

    Shows how disingenuous the average Republican/conservative can be. We all know that maintaining roads is something that has to be done AND that it is an interstate commerce issue. Yet the Republicans refuse to fund it because it is Obama saying that it is a good idea.
    We need to get rid of these zealots and get back to 'good stewardship' as the theme of the day in the government.

    May 14, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  16. Chris Bourne

    And approving the Keystone Pipeline improves the roads and bridges how? Priebus, that was an idiotic comparison!!!

    May 14, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  17. DaveW

    Cut defense.

    May 14, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  18. sandcanyongal

    What happened to all the money in the transportation bill approved in 2008 that was intended to rebuild bridges??? It was squandered on intermittent industrial wind mills that have been a boom for Google, Berkshire Hathaway and Barclays Bank. What a waste of transporation money.

    Obama has no credibility. All he's interested in is invading every country that has oil reserves to make the Exxons and Chevrons rich.

    May 14, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  19. TMF

    Republicans are like the kid who loses and decides to take his ball home. If they can't win fair and square they try to ruin it for everyone.

    May 14, 2014 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  20. shawn L

    This I approve. Tax payer dollars SHOULD go towards paying for infrastructure.

    May 14, 2014 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  21. Merlin

    Congress needs to agree on projects that would actually benefit this country and hire companies based in the US with US workers to complete the work. Projects should not be tied to a political preference, but rather to the needs determined by deficiencies, maintenance and de-bottlenecking. Infrastructure improvements should include high priority assignments to hurricane evacuation routes in highly populated areas, etc. We need a Congress willing to work together, though...something we just don't have.

    May 14, 2014 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  22. HillClimber

    The only problem with Priebus' suggestion is that the Keystone pipeline will not be build under any circumstances. You can't race a dead horse, especially one that is never making it to the starting gate. Change your tune and make a valid suggestion, Priebus.

    May 14, 2014 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  23. w5cdt

    Republicans are so filled with hate they cannot think straight. They won't listen to anything reasonable from the other side.

    May 14, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  24. G_Edwards

    "Obama: Listen to these Republican presidents"

    Can Pres Obama ever NOT talk in terms of Repubs and Dems???? How about talking in terms of Americans?

    .

    May 14, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  25. Toolttime

    You won't need roads or bridges when you run out of oil and by not building the keystone pipeline

    May 14, 2014 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
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