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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    Repukes always have a solution for everything: "Well Obama, blah blah blah blah!! Obama blah blah!!" Rinse Priebus?? How does he even get out of bed with a name like that?

    May 14, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  2. Bud

    So far this year I've replaced 2 tires after less than 6 months of use due to pot holes. I would rather pay that $200 in increased taxes to repair or replace unsafe car damaging roads.

    May 14, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  3. Candlewick

    None of those presidents listed were strapped with the debt and deficits we face today. It's not like there are piles of money laying around waiting to be spent. All expenditures are subject to discussion, I would think.

    May 14, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  4. Person

    Those of you who think this kind of spending is a waste of money: where do you think the money goes? When thousands of workers are paid taxpayer money for repairing our infrastructure, what do you think they do with the money? They pay rent and buy groceries and support their families, and the money goes right back into the economy, helping other businesses big and small, helping other families, on and on. It's hard to imagine a better investment for America. And how do you think better roads affect our economy? More efficient transport lowers prices and boosts everyone's buying power, on and on once again. Skimping on infrastructure meets the definition of penny wise and pound foolish.

    May 14, 2014 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  5. Chris

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is to spend $831 billion between 2009-2019, largely on infrastructure. The money that has been spent thus far cannot entirely be accounted for. Same for the money that has been raised via the gas an other transportation taxes, which can and are actually spent on anything Uncle Sam wants. So if you're a Dem and against the wars Bush got us into, the gas tax helped fund that. If your a Repub and outraged at the increased spending on Food Stamps, the gas tax helped fund that too. As did Social Security and Medicare taxes because that money doesn't necessarily go to fund those programs.

    Raising the gas or any other tax won't solve the problem as that the money is largely wasted. Rather than raise taxes, I'd rather our government be forced to spend effectively. Last year the government received record tax revenues by a substantial amount, and it still ran a deficit that added to the $17.5 trillion in national debt. If the current folks in Washington can't do it, let's vote them out until someone is in there that can. I don't care what their political persuasion is, just be responsible with what you have, because it is enough. It's just easier for them to ask for more, usually by telling one constituency that someone else will have to ante up but not them, than put systems in place to spend what they have effectively.

    May 14, 2014 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  6. James

    Hmm wasn't the trillion dollars Obama flushed down the toilet for "shovel ready" infrastructure jobs? it's like romper room in the white house.

    May 14, 2014 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  7. frankiesweep

    If you want your bridge you can keep your bridge....

    May 14, 2014 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  8. Binny

    Another shining example of the GOP practice of opposing ANYTHING that the Democrats propose, even if it is essential, obvious and good sense. I can't believe the GOP is pushing the pipeline over America's infrastructure. If they truly are interested in helping Americans keep working it makes more sense to get people all over the USA working on these public projects. Haven't they heard of the many bridges and tunnels all over the country that are aging and failing? Of the many injuries that have happened? This is a matter of the public's safety and I. for one, do not appreciate the GOP playing russian roulette with it. Yes, the pipeline is important, but so is finding alternative fuels- another thing the Dems favor that the GOP adamantly opposes.

    May 14, 2014 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  9. lerianis

    Bill from GA, we could easily solve that issue with a little thing called an increase to the gas tax for cars less than 20 years old or a higher tax on newer cars when they are sold.

    May 14, 2014 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  10. mbaron1949

    Whether it's benefits for veterans, care for the elderly or the poor, educations for the young, equal pay for women, and on and on, the Republicans quash seemingly everything. The protection of the 1%ers seems to be the Republicans' top priority. (Well, really second to obstructing any Obama or other Democrat proposal.) I don't know why anyone making less than half a mil a year clings to Republican candidates.

    May 15, 2014 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  11. Jolat

    Obama, is quoting, Republicans??

    May 15, 2014 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  12. Old favorite

    Are these the shovel ready jobs we've been hearing about? Or more union dues like the past...?

    May 15, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  13. Tony

    Imagine what Obama could have accomplished if he did not lead through fear, intimidation, and division...

    May 15, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  14. mbaron1949

    Whether it's infrastructure, Veterans' benefits, education for the young, equal pay for women, assistance for the elderly and the poor, tax breaks for the middle class, clean energy development,and on and on, the Republicans quash seemingly everything. Their top priority seems to be protecting the rich (well, the real top priority is nixing anything Obama or other Democrats propose). Why anyone making under half a million a year would vote for Republican candidates is beyond me.

    May 15, 2014 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  15. benlinus

    I seemto remember one of the fewthings the Bush Jr did right was the biggest infrastructure bill for highways since the New Deal ( For the record I am a Sanders leftist, none the less lets give credit where credit is due); I am ashamed of voting for Obama twice because I get the feeling that this guy is the worst Democrat since Truman regarding secrecy and domestic spying.

    May 15, 2014 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  16. Dave Hilgemann

    The sentence "Fueled by gasoline taxes, the fund hasn't been able to keep up with spending demands as Americans spend less on fuel." should be corrected. It should read ".... as Americans consume less fuel and the fuel tax has not been increased to account for inflation since 1993. If the situation is stated factually. it is more obvious the current tax rate on gasoline is absurd. The politicians that have no spine and don't adjust the federal gasoline tax are not "starving the beast" they are starving the people and businesses of adequate transportation.

    May 15, 2014 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  17. jakinak

    Tell you what "Bill from GA", go ahead and raise the gas tax, most folks don't mind paying a fair share.. but you have to admit that our bloated government bureaucracy and it's propensity to spend tax dollars recklessly reached epidemic level.

    May 15, 2014 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  18. Dave

    Yeah but it was a Democrat who said, "And while we're at it, let's pay billions more than necessary for union labor to make our constituents happy."

    May 15, 2014 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  19. INeed APart TimeJob

    I don't care what Democrats say or for that matter Republicans say. The country needs to be built up/maintained. The middle class, the very fundamental class for the functional democracy (even 1% will tell you that) is shrinking. Have you wonder how China's rising directly proportional to the rise of their middle class? Even if it is other way around then that would mean the US Economy is not on pace with the growth of that of China, even if we consider the size of both economies. Why just limit building (or maintaining/if not upgrading) roads and not include other aspects (like builing/maintaining the middle class) that will show sure signs of the US Economy bloom.

    May 15, 2014 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  20. olepi

    President Obama might as well be talking to the Confederacy. Their constitution forbade the government from spending money on infrastructure.

    May 15, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  21. Margaret

    I guess Republicans don't use streets, bridges sewer systems, tunnels, electricity, sidewalks, street lights, and all the things the rest of us use and like. After all they are nothing but make work projects, people should repair the street in front of their house and pay for it themselves, do they think that will work?

    May 15, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  22. HK

    Silly Obama, of course we can't afford to maintain our roads. We need that money to bomb impoverished foreigners.

    May 15, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  23. MJ

    Government steals $.70+ from us for each a gallon of gas we purchase. Why on earth would they need more money?

    May 15, 2014 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  24. Humbrrto

    As the State Department of Transportation wrote on Page 3 of its December 2011 Bridge Data report (PDF), the bridge is not "structurally deficient," it is "functionally obsolete," which is just a fancy way of saying "narrower than the engineers want it to be."

    May 15, 2014 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  25. stiz2003

    Tell this President he could save his vacation money!

    May 15, 2014 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
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