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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    Wow agreed Mr. President. Now which programs are we going to cut to make this happen? Or were you planning on another tax hike?

    May 15, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  2. patNY

    One doesn't have to wonder much what motivates the RNC Chairman to promote an oil pipeline that will have no benefit to the US over rebuilding our crumbling bridges and roads that will have a huge benefit to the US – two words: Koch Brothers.

    May 15, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  3. Diogenese

    Obama is beginning to realize his days are numbered and that his failing ObamaCare will become but a disappearing footnote. He needs to have infastructure projects named for him in order to be remembered for something positive.

    May 15, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  4. freckledflood

    Cut expenses from military and welfare funds and put it back into working citizens who help build our infrastructure. Both parties are effected equally and Americans can vote out all these old farts with new libertarian, young minds.

    May 15, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  5. trildog99

    Since Obama wants to use quotes from previous republicans, I will use quotes from a very prominent democrat:

    "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies."

    "What’s she not telling you about her healthcare plan?” the ad said. “It forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can’t afford it, and you pay a penalty if you don’t.

    "...what's she not telling you about her health care plan? It forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it, and you pay a penalty if you don't," (argument against an individual mandate for healthcare)

    "We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops that we are not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there." (argument against air strikes that cause civilian casualties)

    "That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. ...No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient."

    In case you haven't guessed who uttered these quotes, it was Obama. Perhaps Obama should start listening to himself before telling others to listen to past presidents.

    May 15, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  6. chip

    Stop giving money to the Muslim Brotherhood and I'm sure we could buy some new bridges.

    May 15, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  7. Dave

    Not sure about other parts of the country, but where I live (Philly burbs), they are spending many, many millions of dollars on building wasteful sound barrier walls. The walls are an integral part of every construction project now. How about allocating those funds to something useful? Bridge repair? New highways? Expanding existing highways? Pot hole fixes !! How can we be short on funds for critical infrastructure, yet we waste millions on these "nice to have", but certainly not required walls???

    May 15, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  8. Miami Mike

    Why not use $ millions that Obama is using to aid-and-abet the millions of illegal immigrants that have violated US law?

    May 15, 2014 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  9. mikal

    We have already seen enough of the administrations so called shovel ready jobs that never happened.

    May 15, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  10. sick of corporate greed

    Great, cut corporate welfare, stop these huge tax breaks for mega companies, and continue to rightsize the military to get things back in line and focus on things like this.

    May 15, 2014 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  11. Tony

    Bridge users should pay for the bridge. Not America.

    May 15, 2014 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  12. bmckay

    Wow!! a D+? In Canada we find your Interstates fantastic. Come on up here and you'll grade our TransCanada Hwy a big fat F.

    May 15, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  13. mdhdog

    Keystone, Benghazi, Keystone, Benghazi....blah, blah, blah. 'Blather, Reince, Repeat.'

    It's true, the Stimulus was $830B, but virtually every respected economist said it was just enough to guarantee failure. Had the initial request of $1.3T been approved the economy would be in much better shape. The tax revenue needed to repay that additional $500B would already be in-hand, and unemployment would be around 5.3%, a full 20% lower than it is now.

    When you point a finger, Reince.....

    May 15, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  14. Rosslaw

    I understand that the teatards plan to fix the issue of falling bridges by repealing the law of gravity.

    May 15, 2014 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  15. Jeff

    500,000,000 gallons of oil passed through Oregon last year by train. Gas is $3.89 in Oregon. Didn't lower the price of gas a cent.

    May 15, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  16. Mike

    Why does the GOP hate America so much? We have projects ready to go, but the House would rather die than fund infrastructure, because they are petrified of the whack jobs that put them in there in the first place.

    May 15, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  17. GA

    President Obama's first comment in the article is about the jobs that would be lost, rather than the necessity of bridges, etc. being supported by the failed Highway Trust Fund. Figure out a way to pay for the stuff and drive on. Don't ask for more money to support jobs. Raise money to improve what is required. The Highway Trust Fund is in place for infrastructure repair, not to support jobs growth.

    May 15, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  18. Ken

    Socialism works great until you run out of other peoples money. Where did all the money go? Now you want more?

    May 15, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  19. geno marcello

    Mr. Obama, you are no Abraham Lincoln.

    May 15, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  20. Scott Cisney

    Well, Mr. Preibus, the Keystone project won't even be needed if motorists don't have roads to drive on. I guess we wouldn't need all that oil then, we'd be walking over the broken pavement!

    May 15, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  21. geno marcello

    Mr. Obama, you are no Abraham Lincoln and you are certainly no Ronald Reagan.

    May 15, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  22. Seattle Sue

    A word of advice Mr. President, You can not shame Republicans as they know no shame.

    May 15, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  23. Steve696

    This is just another example of why the government shouldn't try these kinds of projects, either to select them or to design them. This bridge was designed for a 50-year lifespan. Who does that? Who thinks a bridge only lasts 50 years? Moreover, where are the dollars that are collected in tolls? If they are all being used for maintenance, then someone is ripping off the states OR the states are not planning ahead. Why should the feds bail them out with our tax dollars, not dollars related to the bridge?

    May 15, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  24. scott caples

    We owe this all to the Republican Neanderthals who would happily watch the nation crumble if they thought it would make Obama look bad or prevent this administration from getting anything done. Unlike the Bush years where we started two wars and cut wealthy peoples' taxes simultaneously, the Obama administration has tried in every way possible to do things, like ACA, that will help American cirtizens. It is time for people to VOTE and get the creeps out.

    May 15, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  25. rs


    So someone said cut off money to the red states? Then how about the red states cut off oil to the blue states? Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota could cripple the economy of the blue states.
    Probably would have no effect- the stinking oil companies (some owned by the Kochs) are too busy selling that oil to China. That oil doesn't stay in the American marketplace, and that is why despite record oil production levels, gas prices remain relatively high.

    May 15, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
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