Obama Pushes Congress to Fund Infrastructure Projects

The president says the nation needs Congress to take bold action.

Posted: 11/02/2011 03:21 PM EDT
Barack Obama Key Bridge

President Obama renewed his jobs pitch on Wednesday a few miles from the Capitol on the Key Bridge, which links Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia, where he highlighted the infrastructure portion of the American Jobs Act. Obama said that Americans are paying for substandard roads and bridges scattered across the country, to the tune of about $130 billion per year in lost jobs and revenues, because the nation’s aging transportation system restricts the movement of goods and services.

 

Obama announced plans to expedite $527 million in competitive transportation grants by the end of the year; shorten the funding application process for bridge, tunnel and other large transportation projects; and to establish a Transportation Rapid Response Team to expedite surface transportation projects. But, he said, he can’t solve the nation’s unemployment crisis on his own and called on Congress to be bold.

 

"The truth is the only way we can attack our economic challenges on the scale that's needed is with bold action by Congress," the president said. "They hold the purse strings. It's the only way we're going to put hundreds of thousands of people back to work right now. Not five years from now, not 10 years from now, but right now."

 

Citing former President Ronald Reagan, who once said that delaying the repair of bridges and highways would cost much more later, and congressional Republicans who have in the past supported measures to fund infrastructure projects that they object to now, Obama urged Congress to move swiftly on the infrastructure portion of his jobs package. He also sharply criticized the time lawmakers have spent on symbolic measures, such as a commemorative baseball coin, that he believes would be better spent on job creation efforts.

 

“You had legislation reaffirming that 'In God We Trust' is our motto? That’s not putting people back to work,” Obama said. “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.”

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the White House and Senate Democrats of trying to divide lawmakers by pushing legislation that is destined to fail.

 

“What we're witnessing in Washington right now is two very different styles of governance: a Republican majority in the House that believes we should actually do something about the problems we face, and which has put together and actually passed bipartisan legislation that would help address those problems,” McConnell said. “And a Democratic Majority in the Senate that's teamed up with the White House on a strategy of doing nothing — all for the sake of trying to score political points and spread the blame for an economy that their own policies have cemented into place as they look ahead to an election that's more than a year away.”

(Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters)

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