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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    "There will be no money, the cupboard will be bare." Ummm the problem Mr. President is that government has already emptied the cupboard because people like you who work there have no sense of logic when it comes to managing our countries finances. STOP using the word "funding" and start using the word "borrowing". The truth is something we haven't heard in a while.

    May 15, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  2. Worst presidentever a million times over

    Obama is a hopeless mess who has screwed up everything he touches with his eternal free pass so he knows he would never be impeached even though he has committed mutiple offenses that would make Watergate look like a picnic and never qualified to be US Senator much less a president. Where is that legal undoctored birth certificate?

    May 15, 2014 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  3. The other guy

    It will all be over soon, kids. One party rule. Hillary! American Royalty!

    May 15, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  4. everstryker

    The question is, Mr. President, why is the Highway Trust Fund empty when nothing has been done to improve infrastructure? Where is the money going? Robbing the Highway fund to send it over to the Ukraine – how pleasant. I'm sure everyone is willing to dig deeper into the red so you can spend it just as unjustly. Not.

    May 15, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  5. Alex

    Trying to get republicans to govern now is impossible... Every action taken by the republicans seems to have only one criteria, not is it good for the country, will it help people or should this be done.... no the one criteria is, can we use this is some way to try to harm President Obama... hurt the country, but blame Obama, that is what the republicans are aiming for. So they threaten to default on the debt, hurt the nations credit ratings, then blame Obama. Let's sequester the spending, not allow any discretion in the cuts to make them the most painful and blame the soft economy on Obama. Now lets cut infrastructure spending which helps the nation, helps GDP, helps create jobs and is good for the country and blame Obama... Republicans certainly couldn't pass something that might help the country, even is past republicans supported it, including Romney in the last election, because they are afraid Obama might actually get some credit for it.

    May 15, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  6. Rosa

    I love how this president, who has presided over one of the most divisive, partisan and inaccessible administrations in history, is lecturing people about being partisan...

    May 15, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  7. tiredofitall

    Why would congress spend money to rebuild our roads and bridges? The only time their on a road is when their circling D.C. in their Limo, the rest of the time their flying First-Class on our dime...

    May 15, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  8. TONE


    He could start by using the money AF1 burns and put it in the shovel ready fund

    How come you right wingers never made these statements about other presidents,Oh! i forgot President Obama is black.

    May 15, 2014 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  9. Joe NYer

    Another typical Biden-esque solution; "Come on, go on out, spend some money!"-as if it grows on trees. Lip service doesn't build bridges Mr President. The economy is still weak, job growth is low, the housing market is still building this bridge will make us all feel better. Where is the money supposed to come from thanks to all these regulations and obstruction to growth?

    May 15, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  10. bob_lawbla

    If our government (Democrats and Republicans) would stop spending more than they take in, maybe just maybe they would be able to cover the cost of improving our infrastructure.

    Blaming the problem on one party is pointless and inaccurate.

    May 15, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  11. lpcchapala

    Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on failed Obamacare websites. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on excessive presidential vacations. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on failed solar companies. Perhaps we could have repaired a bridge or two.

    May 15, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  12. MollyBee

    The more our President tries to unify Congress, the more the far-right resists but you can't blame a President for trying. To the GOP: more money in the off-shore, tax subsidized, interest bearing coffers of the 10%ers is not going to help the economy for most Americans, corporations are NOT people and big money does not equal 'free speech'.

    May 15, 2014 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  13. t

    ...GOP:::........Bridges...........BRIDGES...........we don't need no STINKIN' BRIDGES....

    May 15, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  14. Ken

    The real problem here is ... all of the dollars that are wasted on infrastructure work so politicians can get projects in their districts. For example the biggest boondoogle (finally cancelled) was the bridge to no where in Alaska.

    Now the most logical way to approach this is prioritize where the money goes and spend the dollars already available only on the infrastructure where it is most needed. Of course large amounts would go towards replacing bridges and other structures in the Eastern areas of the US where some of the oldest structures exist. That would never sit well with all the politicians from other states and they would demand their fair share. So applying logic to the problem would prove a challenge.

    Logic would also dictate that you spend the money on the worst problems instead of building new infrastructure. Do you spend a Billion dollars on a new six lane toll road between to cities? Or do you spend the money replacing 100 year old bridges before they collapse. But again in come the politicians as those commuters between those to cities are crying and whining about how long their trip is. So to buy votes they spend on the toll road instead of needed fixes.

    Logic would also dictate we stop spending money on pie in the sky type projects. For example, the cost to build an LA to San Francisco High Speed Rail will be $100 Billion, more or less (the numbers keep changing). All that money to be spent over the next 15 years ... but imagine the fixes that could be done to other aspects of the nations D+ rated infrastructure with that same money. Or think about the New International Trade Crossing, a US to Canada bridge to be built in Michigan. The initial cost of the bridge of $2 Billion has ballooned to close to $5 Billion as the prior bridge plan was to plain (This is an international crossing and it needs to look the part!). Rather than build a good strong bridge that will last a long time, they want to bridge to have flair, good lucks, and such.

    Sigh .. if we could just prioritize, stop spending on new stuff, and stop over spending on looks good in the news items, we could repair existing infrastructure with the money already generated by taxes.

    May 15, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  15. Anonymous

    states pay for there infrastruture not feds.

    May 15, 2014 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  16. Susan

    Republicans are a bunch of idiots! They oppose anything Obama wants to help the country because it probably would be successful and make him look good. Never mind that what Obama wants would benefit the American people! The goal is to destroy anything that will make the middle class prosper.

    May 15, 2014 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  17. t2vodka

    The republicans are probably only rejecting this because they want less jobs to make the dems look worse. USA politics is broken, hope a meteor hits congress next time they all meet.

    May 15, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  18. Spgfld Tom

    Excuse me, Mr. President. You built the bridge by absolutely refusing to work with the Republicians at any level/on any issue. Just a little late for the "blame game", sir. BTW: leaders don't blame, they develop teams to accomplish goals (that's why they are called leaders).

    May 15, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  19. Walt the American

    If the comments here are an example of the state of this greatest of countries, then the people truly are represented in government. Each and every one of you has stated that it's the other party's fault. Sounds just like the yen yang up in Washington. Before you call yourself a Republican or a Democrat, try calling yourself an American. There are solutions to our problems in this, the greatest nation ever conceived, but most will never be realized if we blindly follow only one party and/or discredit the other solely because of our affiliation. Later

    May 15, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  20. we see your bias

    why do we as free people listen to an individual who is bent on the destruction of America and wants nothing but control of your life. it only will take one thing that will cause the American people to come together and crush the obama dictatorship.

    May 15, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  21. Serge Storms

    Everyone wants safe bridges and paved roads. Ask people to pony up for the cost and you'll hear things like "get rid of fraud and waste, that will pay for it", or "this is just another excuse to raise taxes". We had a massive expansion of our infrastructure starting in the 50s. That means we've got a lot of stuff that's getting old. The longer we put off the inevitable, the more it will cost. You can maintain a bridge for a lot less than it costs to replace it.

    May 15, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  22. resident

    Anyone who has done the research knows that Keystone XL will provide only temporary jobs and allow Canadian oil to be sold to China. The Repubs will deny anything Obama wants out of principle. Now, why would they fund a project benefitting American union workers and manufacturers who normally vote Democrat? Business as usual.?

    May 15, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  23. chill485

    So why is it that the GOP is all hot about building a pipeline for the Canadians and Big Oil to ship their oil but could care less about the derelict roads and bridges we AMERICANS drive over every day. Current GOP thinking, if you can call it that, is creating a Third World country out of the US. Lousy infrastructure, lousy schools, and most of the wealth concentrated in a few oligarchs.

    May 15, 2014 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  24. uncdig

    wake up Mr President. America is tired of waste and uncontrolled spending by the US government. If you would do something about cutting the waste, we would do something about the things that really need to be paid for. Until then, quit asking for more of my hard earned money. And yes, I did build my business.

    May 15, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  25. joeazona

    I can see many of you are still blind to the fact that both parties are the same. Funded by the same corporations and elite indivuduals. They realized long ago they could control both sides and keep she eple like you pointing & blaming the other like it makes a differnace. Poor you. Its time to take up.

    May 15, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
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