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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    Dangezy

    Remember the George W stimulus? 1200 to couples and 600 to singles. I figure at least 75% of Americans recieved these benefits. Considering we have 320 mil plus Americans that makes 240 mil people recieved on an average of 900 dollars per. What's 900 times 240 mil times an irag war we didn't need to be in times a subprime housing problem? Are all republicans blind?
    ____________________
    Why, yes, yes they are.

    May 15, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. rell87

    It is very telling that in an attempt to add some credibility to his policies, Obama must try to align with past Republican presidents.

    May 15, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  3. rs

    YBH

    You'd think that 6 years in, Barry would not still be blaming republicans for everything...
    ____________________________
    Aside from legislating the female reproductive system endlessly, name one thing the GOP actually did since Bush left office. More than 500 filibusters in the Senate. The lowest rate of bills passed in the House, ever. Hundreds of unfilled jobs in federal agencies and the judiciary, held up by these creeps. Face it, the GOP has been worse than al Qaeda for the American economic recovery.

    May 15, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  4. Laurie

    Another stupid republican obstructionist move. You'd think they'd learn that doing the same old thing isn't going to have different results. They're still viewed as idiotic.

    May 15, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  5. danielz

    Candlewick, republican tax cuts starting with Reagan's and continuing with Bush 2 along with the Norquist Pledge obligation they all must sign on to, is the SOLE reason for the debt. Waging two wars without a single war tax was not too smart.

    May 15, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  6. Sam

    The only answer out of Obama is raise taxes. My answer is spend what you get wisely and prove it before you ask for any more. He is totally inept at Economics 101 and Accounting 101, no clue>

    May 15, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. rs

    Mr New York

    MR President don't for one second bark at the Republicans. You made cars go with less gas which is good but you forgot to tell everyone that the money you pay at the pump goes to building our roads.
    ______________________
    Don't be simple.
    If we didn't have efficiency standards, we' be paying $5 a gallon- and you'd blame the President. Here's a thought: the federal tax on a gallon of gas started in the '30s at 1 cent per gallon. It is now just 18 cents. Adjusting for inflation it ought to be closer to 65 cents. Naturally, the GOP actually wants to CUT he federal gasoline tax. See the problem? It's the cut-taxes-and-spend GOP at work again.

    May 15, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  8. NealR2000

    It's all too easy to get caught up in the clearly obvious wish for better infrastructure. The President and the mainstream meadia re doing their best to portray Republicans as standing in the way of positive change. What completely goes over the heads of the public is that should this massive Bill be passed, only a fraction of the billions alloted to it will actually get spect on actual infrastructure improvements. Until you understand pork and how these Bills are crafted, you will never undersatnd why Washington is such a divided place. Until you undersatnd how many interlopers get involved in these Bills, and how much of the money goes into completely unrelated black holes, you have no right to try and argue this matter simply based upon what you perceive as being right or wrong.

    May 15, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. LeRoy_Was_Here

    The American Society of Civil Engineers gives U.S. infrastructure a D+ in terms of condition and performance.

    I think I've spotted the problem. For Republicans, that would be a good grade. They would go home and brag to their parents about getting a D+ on that tough arithmetic quiz.

    May 15, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  10. El Warbo Grande

    Gee, Mr. Obama, we'd love to fund your roads and bridges. Unfortunately all our budgets are going to fund your healthcare law.

    May 15, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. rs

    mike in NH

    I don't agree with Obama often but he is right on the transportation budget. WE need to fund our infrastructure like we did in the 60's and 70's. We built it new then now its old and needs a lot of work. Time to increase the gas tax and direct all of it to transportation, primarily roads. If we don't do this we risk having a third world transportation system.
    ______________________
    Correct Mike- and worse, without continued expansion of our transportation system (bridges, rails, highways, airports), our economy will not grow. This is a jobs and economy issue, and the GOP ought to be the first to the plate to fix this sort of problem.

    May 15, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  12. rs

    kelly rollins

    Where did Obama's "Shovel Ready" jobs go?

    Americans coughed up BILLIONS in stimulus money for infrastructure repair that Obama is now "Taking it to Republicans" on...

    "We The People" paid for this already in the stimulus!

    WHAT HAPPENED TO THOSE STIMULUS FUNDS? NO JOBS WERE CREATED!

    WHERE DID THESE FUNDS GO?
    _______________________
    Don't be dense. Those funds were allocated (and bragged about by republicans who brought them home to their states). Those funds were long ago expended, and those jobs came and went. The problem is the backlog of repair and expansion far, far, exceeded the amount allocated by Congress. You also forget a sizeable chunk of the "stimulus" was tax cuts- and the lion's share of those went to the rich.

    May 15, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  13. James Wolfer

    All the GOP wants is to line their pockets with money. Been doing this for decades.

    May 15, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  14. A E

    The ignorance is clear in these comments. The GOP blocks every move Obama tries to make, for better or worse, and then you sit here and say "Oh, he hasnt done anything." The politicians you voted for are sitting there voting against jobs and against improving the country just because they dont like the president, and you uneducated schlubs eat it up and vote them right back in. Good job, Republicans, you act like spoiled little children throwing a tantrum after you lost the election.

    May 15, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  15. Bob Smith

    Christie could have approved the tunnel. The railways could have been funded. I guess giving money to Bush Cheney's buds is a priority. Repeal the capital gains tax and push a patriotic agenda. Now its the right gaming the system giving the US an alienated populous. We are now a country of haves and have not't.

    May 15, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  16. Thaddeus

    In recent years, a new and dangerous front has opened up in the conservative war on government: the battle over deficits and debt. The anti-government forces have tried to portray their position as merely one of fiscal common sense. They say that it is simply a matter of not spending more money than one earns. But make no mistake: this anti-debt crusade is a highly politicized effort to fundamentally undermine liberal programs and progressive government in this country. If the deficit hawks are successful, they will do major damage to society and the economy. They are promoting a deficit hysteria in an effort to force the government to enact deep cuts in vital social programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This fiscal austerity movement would also prevent the government from using deficit spending to speed the recovery of the economy when it is in recession. And it would inhibit us from making the crucial public investments in education, technology, energy, and (((transportation))) that are necessary to improve society and lay the foundations for future economic growth.

    A while back, the senate minority leader Mitch McConnell became the first U.S. Senator in American History to filibuster his own bill, which he submitted in the well of the Senate chambers.

    I think the president has a solution. I think the GOP, for a lot of reasons, has built it's platform on obstruction. Because of that, I expect the President to hold firm. I don't think the GOP idea is better.

    The Republican party seems to have plenty of time for Benghazi witch hunts, but no time for supporting transportation funding? Why am I not surprised?

    Being a republican today is simply embarrassing......!

    May 15, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  17. DoubleSteve

    Yeah, let's keep pushing off infrastructure repairs until it becomes a massive problem and then point fingers at people for not doing anything about it. That's the American way after all! Ignore things until people die and then throw twice the money it would have taken to prevent the problem and scramble to find a scape goat.

    May 15, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  18. The REAL Truth...

    @Joe NYer – Where is the money supposed to come from thanks to all these regulations and obstruction to growth?
    ----------------------------
    You mean regulations already in place when Obama took office? Put in place over many years before that? Those regulations? Money? Heck, the $24 BILLION the GOP wasted in a 16 day Federal shutdown would have built quite a few bridges. Even ones in NY.

    May 15, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. tonymanzi

    "Build the keystone pipe line and that will create jobs" Well without infrastructure, how are you going to ship the oil to refineries? After it is refined, how are you going to get it to the gas stations or other industrial plants to make plastic parts, etc? The pipe line is like the arm on your body, you still need blood to make it function...

    May 15, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  20. rs

    stambo

    Well, you could build shiny new roads..but to go where? Gas prices are not getting cheaper. Maintenance costs of the roads and bridges is not getting cheaper. The businesses that produce have left, they don't need the roads. Physical infrastructure has had to take a back seat to pay for the illusion of stability elsewhere, say feeding the largest number of people on food stamps in American history. Don't people understand that the money originally put aside to maintain these roads was used up? But of course the progressives think you just pull dollars off the money tree while the conservative mind realizes the money is gone.
    ____________________________
    So, to summarize your post:
    1. We'd be better off with really bad roads or dirt roads, or maybe no roads, and;
    2. Our nation will be better with people starving in the streets?

    Really? And at the same time, I am sure you embrace the GOP's huge tax breaks for the rich, and the $billions they give to big oil as "incentives- mostly to take our oil and sell it abroad.

    May 15, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  21. CMML

    The Democrats and Republicans passed a budget it February – it's now up to Democrats and Republicans to make the tough choices that come with living on a budget. I find it offensive that we have Democrats coming back to the table asking for more money to fund things that should be part of the budget.

    May 15, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. dotheflippin'math

    I bet that any teapartycons that survive a bridge collapse will try to sue the government for not replacing the very same bridges they're opposed to funding. The US actually can print the extra money and write themselves a check to cover it. But, waaaah! That could devalue the dollar (which could actually stimulate more domestic growth, not to mention the money paid to the workers would also make its way back into the economy). Oh, but that's "socialism!" Yes, it is. The only losers in the equation are the filthy rich GOP supporters who worry this could decrease their net worth. Nah, better to drive on damaged roads and bridges, and insult all the out of work construction people for being lazy and thinking they deserve handouts, so they can eat, and maybe keep their homes. We need to do this. I'm sick of the greedy GOP backers and ignorant right-wing voters being so self-centered and closed-minded.

    May 15, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  23. eli

    Have any of you thought that if you might take a moment and study on the issue and work together that it might be for the good of us all, instead of automatically blaming the other side. Nothing is ever going to get done if we do not come together and work out important issues. At this point seeing that it is pretty much 50/50 in this country, if we are going to get anything worked out we are going to have to compromise.

    May 15, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  24. ART

    Anonymous, good name, because when you were born your parents were probably too stupid to come up with a name . You make absolutely no sense, go fumigate your trailer you dunce. Now they talk about all these jobs with some stupid Canadian pipeline when we can do all these infrastructure projects and put Americans to work,hence again we see the hypocracy of the GOP (good for nothing old pricks

    May 15, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  25. Tea Partier

    Obama is so dumb we dont need roads and bridges. What the republicans know is that we'll be using hover crafts in the next couple years.

    May 15, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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