Obama urges funding for bridges, highways

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday called upon congressional Republicans to take quick action to fund infrastructure projects throughout the nation, arguing that failing to do so could mean huge layoffs for Americans this year.

Stepping up criticism of his Capitol Hill opponents, Mr. Obama poked derisive fun at Republicans as he urged them to join Democrats to pass legislation that would replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to exhaust its resources by August.

“I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted,” Mr. Obama said in a speech at Georgetown Waterfront Park, overlooking the Potomac River and the Key Bridge, one of several bridges undergoing federally funded repairs after being deemed structurally deficient. “It’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff. No, seriously!”

The president said that if Congress did not act in the next couple of months, states would have to decide which projects to continue and which to halt, ultimately placing as many as 700,000 jobs at risk. “That would be like Congress threatening to lay off the entire population of Denver, or Seattle, or Boston,” Mr. Obama told about 550 supporters and employees of the federal and District of Columbia Transportation departments.

He made a pitch for his own infrastructure plan: a four-year, $302 billion initiative unveiled earlier this year that would pay for renewing the transportation fund in part by closing corporate tax loopholes. Mr. Obama said his plan was “sensible” and laughingly made reference to GOP criticisms of him. “It’s not socialism. It’s not ‘the imperial presidency.’ No laws are broken,” he said. “We’re just building roads and bridges.”

And in keeping with his recent tactic of going around his Republican critics with executive action — which has prompted threats of a lawsuit by GOP congressional leaders — the president said he would not wait for Congress to act on infrastructure investments or a host of other priorities he said they had neglected.

“Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me,” Mr. Obama said. “As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”

At a Cabinet meeting Tuesday morning, Mr. Obama said he was directing his team to look for creative ways to accomplish what Congress has refused to do.

The transportation measure would fund projects in virtually every lawmaker’s state or district and enjoys broad support, but it has been mired in a political fight over how to pay for it.

Some Democrats favor increasing the 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax to bring in more revenue for highway programs, whose expenditures have outpaced the amount brought in by the tax. Republicans have resisted that approach, arguing that the measure should be paid for by cutting federal spending elsewhere.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore. has proposed a package that would steer $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund by closing tax loopholes. House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., has said he will unveil a plan this month.

United States government - Barack Obama - United States Congress - U.S. Republican Party - United States Senate - Dave Lee Camp - Ron Wyden


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