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Once Again, Obama Calls on Congress to Rebuild Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure

obamacare-mandate-delayedSince he was first elected six years ago, President Obama has been calling for more federal spending to rebuild the nation’s transportation infrastructure, with mixed results in the recalcitrant Congress. So the president is continuing to push Congress on the issue by traveling to Minnesota today to outline his four-year, $302-billion transportation plan that he says is desperately needed.

The White House claims that more than 700,000 jobs could be lost if Congress doesn’t act to renew infrastructure rebuilding. But since the current transportation law doesn’t expire until September, there’s still time for Congress.

However, lawmakers weren’t hopeful that Obama’s ambitious plan had any hope. The plan relies on revenue that would come from ending some tax breaks to free up $150 billion for transportation—not something Republicans are keen to embrace, particularly ahead of November midterm elections.

Even staunch Obama ally Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), head of the committee that oversees work on the highway bill, said on Wednesday that Obama’s plan was not likely to pass Congress.

“I think it’s good, but I don’t hold out hope for it,” Boxer said at a conference of state transportation officials in Washington.

She said the biggest hurdle for getting a highway bill through Congress would be getting an agreement on funding.

“It’s the pay-for that is the sticky wicket,” she said.

“I have no hope for that happening this year,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters yesterday, blaming Democrats seeking tax increases for the gridlock.

The White House is leaving open the possibility for negotiation.

“While the president will show how to fully pay for his proposal in this way, he will also make clear that he is open to ideas and wants to work with Congress in a bipartisan way to get this done,” the White House said in a statement.

After the last major transportation law expired in 2009, for the next three years Congress could only pass one-year extensions because of the deficit hawks. In July 2012, they agreed to pass a two-year plan for highways, public transit, bridges and other transportation projects. The president’s four-year proposal would inject $150 billion in one-time funding into projects aimed at tackling what he calls the nation’s infrastructure “crisis.”
The president has repeatedly called for a federal infrastructure bank that could leverage private investment in projects, but Congress has not been interested.
The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant program, which was created as part of the 2009 stimulus legislation, sent $3.5 billion to 270 projects across the nation. One of those projects was the revival of the historic train station in downtown St. Paul, which Obama traveled to Minnesota to highlight.

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