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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    Obama is the liar in chief

    May 14, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  2. Eduardo

    Maybe he should cut welfare to pay for it.

    May 14, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Take a basic economics class. It'll tell you why it's not smart to raise gas tax... Consumers will ultimately have to pay for the increase in price, not the corporations! Just gives the big guys a reason to charge us more on price inelastic items like gas... This could only work if there was a federally implemented price ceiling on gas, which is never going to happen when big money runs the government. America is an oligarchy, not a democracy!

    May 14, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  4. Guest

    We now owe 17 Trillion dollars. Obama promised to halve the debt. He lied about that too.

    May 14, 2014 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  5. Joe

    Obama will NEVER BE Ronald Reagan.

    May 14, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  6. Chip

    Why not round up all those illegals you're paying to sit on their butts and make babies to tear it down?

    May 14, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  7. Alan

    I thought that was the purpose of the $800,000,000,000 stimulus package several years ago – to fund all of those "shovel-ready" jobs, that apparently weren't so shovel ready! Now he is asking for more????

    May 14, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  8. Chris from Sacramento

    As far as the Republican controlled House is concerned they will do nothing that does not benefit the Republican Party nor do anything that will benefit the average American. I would be curious just exactly what the House does do being as they only seem to concentrate on trying over and over to repeal Obomacare and refuse to even debate extending unemployment benefits for the Millions of hard working Americans who are out of work at no fault of their own.

    May 14, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  9. Gregg

    Starting in 2009 there were two stimulus spending bills, each the largest in history, in the amounts of $700-900 Billion dollars. the estimate for fixing every faulty bridge in the entire US was $64 Billion, about 10% of each spending bill. So where did the money go Dems? Why didn't you spend it on bridges yet? Too much spent bulking up the NSA?

    May 14, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  10. J R Brown

    People can't seriously be falling for the "we're buying less gas" nonsense, can they? Hundreds of millions more cars are on the roads now than when the highways were first laid...even if they are more "fuel efficient".

    If the number of cars on the road is 100 times more than it was 40 years ago, is the fact that the new cars get 30 mph instead of 20 mpg really an issue???

    May 14, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  11. steve-0

    The tea party has a knife to our throat. Eliminate them–eliminate the threat.

    May 14, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  12. The Elephant in the Room

    1) Raise the minimum wage and then INDEX it to inflation. This pulls income out of corporations [that will hoard it] and puts it in the hands of people [who will spend it] thereby raising GDP creating jobs in the process.
    1a) Governmental revenues will increase because those corporations are being undertaxed on that money. Individual tax rates are higher so putting the same dollars in the working poor`s hands has a net positive impact to the budget deficit.
    2.) Reverse the PREFERENTIAL treatment that passive income [capital gains & dividends] recieves which allow lower taxes on it as compared to "ordinary income". Said another way raise the capital gains tax rate. This will FURTHER shrink the national deficit. It also moves us closer to the tax structure we had in the glorious `50s & `60s when we were building Interstates AND Apollo . . . racing the Soviets to the moon. [Aren`t these the glory days conservatives long for?] If so, return to that tax structure.
    3) With a higher minimum wage, raise the gas tax 12 cents a gallon. The working poor won`t feel the pinch then.
    4) with the additional revenue from gas taxes, build a 21 century transportation system.
    4) Buil a 21st century electrical grid . . . Let this be Obama`s & Hillary`s Interstate Highway System.

    May 14, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  13. Kings on the back row......

    ..The tea party and its less powerful gop wing always want to pass on any projects that benefit most of us...including the 47% THAT ROMNEY and his friends IGNORE !

    May 14, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  14. ureallyshouldcare

    Why should the GOP care? At this point their corporate masters know that in the not too distant future they'll have all the slaves they need to keep their companies running. Supreme Court is already paving the way. They've dumbed down the citizens of this country with their education policies and control of tv stations. American sheeple keep voting against their best interest and letting the corporations take over the Country listening to the slick BS infomercials that the courts have deemed free personal speech. Wake up America, take back your Country from the Corporate shills that we're forced to choose from! It is 'Representation by the people, for the people' Demand election reform from your representatives! That's the start. Beyond that there needs to be enforcement of the law of this Country that currently are being ignored for the crimes of the rich and powerful. Wake up America! We're being subjugated by the rich and powerful just like our forefathers were who founded this Country.

    May 14, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  15. Mr. Natt

    I know Obama does not want to talk about his performance as a leader. At least he can tell me how many miles has he piled on Air Force one as the most Frequent Flyer. What percentage of that is for fundraising?

    May 14, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  16. I voted for this guy.

    Why can't people who use the bridge pay for it themselves?

    May 14, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  17. ted

    The problem with the GOP is this. if there was a war to start, they would be all over it not giving a rats butt about funding it. But anything for the US like infrastructure projects, they whine and cry there is no money.Such crap.

    May 14, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  18. Realistic Patriot

    Give the Republicans a little more time, and they'll have what's left of the country in tatters. They have no perception of the common good.

    May 14, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  19. Gunderson

    Aw Yes!
    Old Gunderson figure it out long ago. But then Gunderson hear how you could get Mortgage and just pay interest on loan. Old Gunderson get a little dizzy. Now how old Gunderson ask, he ever pay off loan. Something wrong here but old Gunderson no bite. Old Gunderson learn later, much later 'Liar" Loans big democrat liberal plan. Now old Gunderson understand!! But rs still buy snake oil and country nearly collapse!

    And you tell me it because Republicans cut taxes. Unfortuntatly Liberals keep spending. BUT, Old What's-His-Name spent over trillion dollars a year, um, sorry, liberals already put those plans in place and Old-Whats-His-Name went a long for the ride. Now Till empty.

    May 14, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  20. Joe

    Hey Rance, nobody drives on the Keystone Pipeline when they take their kids to school. Fix our roads and bridges now. How is this not a common sense decision.

    May 14, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  21. Mike

    I don't think knows math...We have no money!!!

    May 14, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  22. Hackman5

    Of course! We are already 17.5 trillion in debt. Why wouldn't republicans be shamed into reloading the credit card, we haven't reached 20 trillion.

    May 14, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  23. Joe M.

    When every public works project takes 4 times as long and costs 4 times as much as projected, this isn't just an issue of what's "needed". Fix those underlying problems, mostly caused by unions, and you will find a willing partner in the GOP.

    May 14, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  24. tony

    Republicans = Satanic Cult and the US's greatest enemy

    May 14, 2014 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  25. gonzo

    Maybe they don't want to spend money, because there isn't any, Mr. Clueless!

    May 14, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
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