Calling on Republican leaders in Congress to support the American Jobs Act, President Barack Obama rallied support for his jobs plan Thursday, which he says will rebuild the country’s infrastructure.
The president traveled to the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati to spotlight a span that connects the home states of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speak John Boehner, R-Oh., which is one of busiest trucking routes in the country.
The bridge has been declared functionally obsolete despite carrying roughly 4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product annually.
Obama says the $447 billion jobs plan would fund construction projects to fix the country’s roads, highways and bridges and will put people back to work.
“It’s a bill that would put people back to work rebuilding America…repairing our roads, repairing our bridges and repairing our schools. It would lead to jobs for construction workers, masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, architects, engineers and iron workers. Put folks back to work,” he says.
Mr. Obama also mentioned the recent closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge connecting Kentucky to Indiana, which was shut down September 9 when cracks were found in its load bearings. The president cited that span during his speech as another example of the country’s crumbling infrastructure needs.
The White House spotlighted that he was visiting the border of the two most powerful GOP lawmakers for a reason, and the president made that point several times.
A particular emphasis was put on McConnell, who made recent statements that fixing America’s bridges and highways shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
“Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, those are the two most powerful Republicans in government. They can either kill this jobs bill or they can help pass this jobs bill. And I know these men care about their states, they care about businesses, they care about workers here,” says Obama. “I know that when Sen. McConnell visited the closed bridge in Kentucky, he said that roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington, that’s great…Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge, help us rebuild America, help us put construction workers back to work. Pass this bill!”
Earlier this week, McConnell questioned the motives behind the visit and said it was nothing more than a political stunt on the campaign trail.
During a speech on the Senate floor Thursday morning, he reiterated that point and suggested the president come back to Washington to work on a plan.
“So I would suggest, Mr. President, that you think about ways to actually help the people of Kentucky and Ohio, instead of how you can use their roads and bridges as a backdrop for making a political point,” says McConnell. “If you’re truly interested in helping our state—if you really want to help our state—then come back to Washington and work with Republicans on legislation that will actually do something to revive our economy and create jobs. And forget the political theater.”
The Senator’s office also pointed out that the president’s visit neglects to mention that the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t “shovel ready” and that Americans had heard promises about stimulus spending two years ago.
The president’s jobs plan does carry $50 billion for immediate investments for transit, rail and aviation. It would also provide $10 billion to create a new National Infrastructure Bank, which could leverage private and public dollars to start construction projects.
But the president also hammered McConnell on the political front, calling him out for a speech delivered not long after the 2010 mid-term elections while defending his proposal to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
“In fact, a while back Sen. McConnell said his top priority, number one priority was to defeat the president. Not jobs, not putting people back to work, not rebuilding American—beating me ,” says Obama. “Well, I’ve got news for him. And every other member of Congress who feels the same way. The next election is 14 months away and I’ll be happy to tangle sometime down the road, but the American people right now don’t’ have the luxury of waiting…pass this bill!”