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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    Wouldnt money be better spent on MORE vacation for the Oblammers. Why do we need safer roads for the population when we could be pying for more golf, more Florida vacations, more family trips to Africa, more, more more! Just pack a rubber boat with you and paddle across those swollen rivers. The Democrats know whats best for you. Just look how good Obama care is working! Right?

    May 14, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  2. TomCom

    Mexico is starting get some cool highways. I think America needs to catch up.

    May 14, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  3. HenryMiller

    "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."

    And many businesses are cutting back on hiring and growth because of the uncertainties inclicted on the economy by the Obama administration. Terriblke thing, uncretaintty...

    May 14, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  4. dave

    If you like your bridge you can keep your bridge... Of course we dont have the money but what difference does it make?

    May 14, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  5. Spiffy

    Why don't the states pay for these improvements by taxing their citizens.

    May 14, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  6. GubmentCheese

    So is he "politicizing" the bridge?

    May 14, 2014 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  7. Spiffy

    I though the stimulus was met to address these issues?

    May 14, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  8. jimmy24

    GOP to Obama: we didn't build that!

    May 14, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  9. VegasSmitty

    Maybe if the US wasn't sending Billions overseas we could fix everything!

    May 14, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  10. Michelle

    If republican block the infrastructure funding we lose 700,000 jobs. That is about what we lost in a month during Bush's Great Recession.

    May 14, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  11. Day and night

    georgex9, There are an estimated thousands of bridges in the US in need of replacing. 10 cents wont scratch the surface.

    May 14, 2014 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  12. JP

    Highway construction is NOT a source of many construction jobs..

    HOME construction is ...build more homes

    May 14, 2014 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  13. BTLProd

    If building infrastructure makes sense, Mr. President, then stop stalling on KeystoneXL. Or is it only Taxpayer funded infrastructure, big government spending that makes sense?

    May 14, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  14. OldSchool

    The Tealiban will be the death of our country.

    May 14, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  15. HUH?

    Maybe if you hadn't wasted so much on your failed social programs thee would be money for infrastructure. But alas, when you hire an incompetent and inept community organizer whose crowning achievement was to vote present....this is what you get.

    May 14, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  16. Republiker

    His pattern of blaming everyone else will likely carry through this last term.

    May 14, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  17. Ulysses

    I can assume by "replenishing" the fund, Obama means he wants Congress to RAISE excise taxes that fund the Highway Trust Fund... thereby further inflating the cost of petroleum. No economy in history has boomed as a result of raising energy costs on its citizens. Historical research reveals a negative and significant impact on per capita GDP and per capita energy consumption. If you are going to impose excise taxes on energy, impose them across the board and across technologies to lessen the impact on the economy, instead of simply ratcheting up the tax on petrol, which will make a significant chunk of the President's supporters jump with joy... while conservative supporters will likely exact primary election revenge on those who vote to raise taxes. I mean assessing it on petroleum, solar, coal, wind, nuclear, natural gas, etc...

    May 14, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  18. Wolfmaanjack

    Obama tell Reid to call off the sequester then you'll have your funds to help rebuild the infrastructure that you should've been working when you first got into office....if you're going to flat out lie at least "try" to erase the pages of history first....

    May 14, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  19. Day and night

    Next up... The pipelines throughout the nation are over 40 years old and leaking

    May 14, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  20. Sergeant Major

    Everyone wants to blame someone else and throw rocks. Stop funding/spending our taxes on anyboby who is not an American citizen or came to the USA legally. This current occupier of the White House is a Liar and lord willing will be impeached for his disregard for the Constitution he swore to uphold and defend. History will not be kind to Obama and rightfully so.

    May 14, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  21. Rick McDaniel

    The spendthrift has no MONEY to pay for this........he simply wants to borrow the money from China, and then the Chinese will import their own workers to build it, and no one will get a single job from it. All we will GET is more debt.

    May 14, 2014 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  22. sandcanyongal

    Isn't America poor enough? The U.S. military is spending obscene amounts of taxpayer money to invade countries to protect oil and gas companies that should pay for their own protection, has troops, mercenaries and supplying arms to countries around the world instead of taking care of our own cournty. Yes our country is falling apart thanks to Mr. Obama who is the 21st century Hitler.

    May 14, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  23. bill

    and we will get the money from where?????? we are broke-you have put us 18,000,000,000 in debt with no way to pay for it unless you could understand what oil and gas on federal lands and offshore could do to pay it off, but you don't and won't and couldn't.

    May 14, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  24. Open2most

    I wonder who built his teleprompter?

    I'm pretty sure I know who wrote his script...

    May 14, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  25. Michael

    Seriously, anyone who 'misses' Ronnie Raygun wasn't ALIVE while he tripled the national debt, cut taxes for the Inheritance Class Investors with his capital gains rate cut while passing the largest tax increase in history (until Bush I) on WORKERS, while he was committing treason by giving weapons to our enemies in defiance of U.S. law, while he was committing obstruction of justice in the Ray Donovan and Iran Contra affairs and giving 1 Trillion for Star Wars (which still doesn't work and never would).

    May 14, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
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