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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    Most of this should be classified as maintenance instead of infrastructure spending. Both parties should agree to fund maintenance properly. Unfortunately, too many transportation dollars go to mass transit projects that are unsustainable instead of repairing these projects.

    May 14, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  2. Mark

    GOP to Obama – Sure, how are we going to pay for it?

    Obama – .... .....

    GOP – Oh we thought you said BUILD a bridge, not that you wanted to sell one...

    May 14, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  3. nemo0037

    If Obama says something should be done, Republicans will block it and try to blame him for the fact that the bridge rusted to smithereens. That's the only play in their playbook.

    May 14, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  4. Larry

    Dear GOP: Let's compromise: "Tear down this bridge, or I'll ram it down your throat anyway."

    May 14, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  5. Independent Thinker

    I love how many of you in your comments blame either the republicans or the democrats for these problems. Wake up, people! Both are to blame for our problems. They BOTH have the wrong priorities and waste our resources for their own political benefit. Too many of them put their own political well being above the good of the nation. The democrats and their "debt is good no matter how large it is as long as we can buy more votes and power" attitude or republicans and their incompetence in setting priorities that will help the nation. And they both pass laws, regulations, and tax loopholes that help their crony friends. As far as infrastructure investment is concerned, if you use it, you pay for it. And the more you use it, the more you pay. Usage fees and usage taxes are fine as long as the money collected goes for its intended purpose. It is a mistake to increase income taxes to pay for this because the money will just go for politician's pet projects. If we are going to improve our infrastructure, we ALL need to contribute (from the poorest to the wealthiest).

    May 14, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  6. Matt from FL

    Double the federal gas tax.

    Gas prices fluctuate by more than twice that during the year anyway. The increased revenue will allow for massive rebuilding of the nation's roads. The sad shape they are in now are costing billions a year in wasted gas and man hours. The money spent rebuilding the roads/bridges/etc. will largely be spent on salaries for Americans (it is very difficult to offshore the job of a worker building a bridge in Kansas). Finally, the increased price of gas will provide more incentive for companies to build fuel-efficient vehicles and likewise influence more people to buy them.

    Oh - I generally vote republican. I will agree that there are a whole lot of imbeciles in office who are members of the GOP. That said, there are a whole lot of imbeciles in office with a D after their name too. It has become one of the major qualifications to run for public office.

    I also respect the office of the President even when I disagree with the decisions of the person there. I don't automatically assume anything he says is stupid just because he's from another party.

    I know - what planet am I from and why am I posting on a CNN article rather than scheduling a press conference with the nice folks from SETI?

    May 14, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  7. stopdrinkingthekoolaid

    he just can't pass up the chance to try to spend money he doesn't have

    May 14, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  8. okiejoe

    Build the pipeline and slap a $50 toll on every barrel of oil that crosses the US-Canadian border. Allocate most of it to infrastructure repair.
    I think the pipeline would create lots of jobs: clean-up and repair crews would be at work constantly, ALL paid for by the Canadian oil company which will make billions of dollars from it.

    May 14, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  9. JohnRJohnson

    Unfortunately, in order to get the Republicans in Congress to do anything about the crumbling infrastructure, the President would have to say he's against doing anything. Then, Republicans would insist on it.

    May 14, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  10. Curious Fred

    but he's no RR!

    May 14, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  11. Eric

    The gas tax more than DOUBLED under Reagan...from 4 cents to 9!!!! OMG how can we afford this!!!
    it doubled under clinton to a little over 18 cents, it was inadequate then, and its still inadequate, now, except the dollar is worth even less than it was then, and as every engineer will tell you, its costs MORE to maintain than it does to build new...try building a road while maintaining traffic at the same takes longer, is more dangerous to workers, and costs always go up as the price of materials and labor go up over the course of years. Raising the gas tax by 10 cents isn't enough...the American Society of Civil Engineers recommended to Congress years ago that it should increase by 25 cents to recover the value of the tax and to begin addressing DECADES of underfunding. Now, 25 cents would not come all at once to avoid sticker would increase 2 cents at first and then 1 additional cent each month for 2 years to gradually ease the price in.
    The real issue is inflation. The tax is not set as a % of the price of gas so it doesn't change with the real value of money. Once the full 25 cents is in place it should be adjusted annually (automatically, with no action required by congress, to avoid political fighting over it) by the official reported value of inflation for that year.

    May 14, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  12. Dee

    When some tragedy happens on these bridges and lots of lives are lost because of poor structure then they will blame it on the President as they always do. Our roads, highways and bridges are in bad shape due to bad weather and the GOP just want to ignore the problem, they repaired them when Reagan was in office.

    We just have to go to the polls and let our votes speak then maybe the American people can get their attention.

    Mr. President keep fighting for us all they are interested in is Benghazi and helping the wealthy.

    May 14, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  13. Fred Dunn

    It's truly amazing what a putz this guy can be without even trying.

    May 14, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  14. JC

    We have spent trillions on infrastructure projects in the past 4 years and it's been squandered. The money doesn't go where it's supposed to, and at least 16% of the road projects listed on the funds priority list aren't really being done. The money sits in municipality coffers and gets used elsewhere. Chicago had a $32 million project for Grand Ave slated for the last two summers. While comes and bars cafés were set up, not one bit of concrete was fixed, removed, or covered. Until the infrastructure fund is fixed to ensure that money is actually being used we don't need to add any more borrowed dollars to the fund. This is a whirlpool situation. Fuel economy goes up, gas consumption goes down. Now the suplental cure is to borrow to fill the fund. No more borrowing.

    May 14, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  15. brownbuttonglutton

    I know of a project like Eisenhower's highway system. We can build a wall on the southern border. Every last inch of it. "Shovel ready".

    May 14, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  16. Ugh

    We wouldn't want the illegals to be without work, would we?

    May 14, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  17. Dennis Fitzpatrick

    The Republicans ran us into the ditch when they had government power. They created the mess we have been trying to get out of with none of their help. They have not created a job nor helped any in the process. Highway funding was always good for both parties what happened? The Republicans now only want government out of their lives. Statistics show Republican states get more money from government then they put in and I feel all federal transportation funds to those states should stop until a bill is passed.Who added trillions to debt, killed hundreds of thousands in 2 wars not funded, who had us in near depression and now they obstruct any effort to pull out? Jobs are needed and transportation jobs are for all America, not just Democrats or Republicans. Time to call them on their un American activities that in the past would never had been allowed.

    May 14, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  18. Lou50

    Lets start cutting back on the perks and retirement of Federal workers ( including Congress ) as well as reducing the Federal work Force by 30% so we can become solvent again!

    May 14, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  19. Rbinsocal

    Hey Mr. Pres. If you hadn't been so busy spending money on an idiotic health care reform, on failed economic stimulus and otherwise spending the US into oblivion there would be money for serious investment. This administration has shown over and over again that it does not spend wisely, is invested with insiders and looters. Seriously, where is all the talk about "SUSTAINABILITY" when it comes to the economy? This profligate spending is not sustainable. Besides how much of any money actually would go to the infrastructure as opposed to political hacks and favorites. No thanks. Just return money to the States and let the States decide where to spend the money!

    May 14, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  20. bitfalls

    Hey there PoliticsFirstCountryLast. You really think the blue states carry us? We are doing great here in NC and having plenty to show for it. Lets take a look at California. My brother lives there and a few years back he received an IOU for his state tax return because they were so broke. Now lets look at New York. You have Cuomo that completely hates anybody not the extreme left, taxes corporations and the people to death, and they still have deficits! When will you guys wake up?

    May 14, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  21. fekt

    Priebus said the Keystone Pipeline is a shovel ready project? He can shovel that manure somewhere else. I can't drive to work on an oil pipeline. I can't cross the river on an oil pipeline. Maybe Priebus needs to pay attention to what's being discussed as opposed to trying to cloud the issue.

    May 14, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  22. Todd

    The Bamster can't even come up with his own material.....Worst Ever!

    May 14, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  23. Chuck

    Obama.........Tear down YOUR Wall!
    Tear down your Lies and start telling the truth

    May 14, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  24. Indpependent Thinker

    My attitude is "If you use it, you pay for it. And the more you use it, the more you pay." It should be usage fees and taxes that pay for this, not increases in income taxes. The revenue from income tax increases will just be diverted by politicians for their own pet projects (republicans AND democrats). And we are all going to have to pay for it (from the poorest to the wealthiest). For those of you who place the problem solely on members of one party, I have news for you. Politicians from BOTH parties are to blame. Those that blame or make generalizations about the opposition are part of the problem, not part of the solution, and thus should be ignored until they wake up and are no longer blinded by ideology.

    May 14, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  25. Rufus

    Start an honest job-bidding process instead of automatically awarding jobs to Obama's union buddies and the costs will go down significantly.

    May 14, 2014 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
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