Blame-Game Begins on Infrastructure Spending

By Jennifer Parker

Aug 2, 2007 3:08pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf and Jennifer Duck report: Politicians in Washington, D.C. began finger-pointing and blaming each other Thursday following the bridge collapse in Minnesota.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Minnesota bridge tragedy is a wakeup call on America’s deteriorating infrastructure.

"Since 9/11 we have taken our eye off the ball," said Reid, suggesting infrastructure spending has taken a back seat to spending on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"(The bridge disaster) really should be a wakeup call for America," said Reid, "a wakeup call to America because we have an infrastructure that is deteriorated and deteriorating. Bridges, dams, highways, water systems, sewage systems."

Meanwhile, President Bush complained Thursday the Democratic-led Congress hasn’t sent him enough appropriations bills and are pushing for too much spending.

"It just doesn’t have to be this way," Bush said. "The Democrats won last year’s elections fair and square, and now they control the calendar for bringing up bills in Congress. They need to pass each of these spending bills individually, on time and in a fiscally responsible way."

Reid responded Thursday, saying the White House is in the "twilight zone," because the President threatened to veto the bill earlier this month that would have funded the Department of Transportation and included money for highway safety.

"For the president today at his press availability to talk about appropriations bills not being attached, he must be in the twilight zone," said Reid. "I mean where was he during the first six years of his presidency when the Republicans weren’t passing Appropriations bills? Did he say a word? No."

"For him to be staring in the face the huge amounts of money we’re spending — $350 million a day in Iraq — and he is threatening to veto appropriations bills also? The difference between what he wants and what we want is 7/10ths of one percent. He is only trying to divert attention from his failed presidency," said Reid.

About a week before the bridge collapse, Bush threatened to veto the congressional appropriations bill that funds the Department of Transportation. Bush said on July 23 that the bill was too expensive by $22 billion, that it had too many earmarks, and that a plan in the House version of the bill to  move $3.5 billion from Defense appropriations to non-defense related spending would "risk diminishing America’s war fighting capacity."

Democrats argued Thursday their bill included $631 million more for federal highway safety than Bush proposed, but Bush threatened to veto it.

"For months this president has had a big rubber stamp. Any thing we want to do, he wants to veto," Reid told reporters at an off-camera press conference in his Senate office.

"The lack of the investment in the infrastructure in this country is truly frightening," said Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash, who chairs the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee. "We have got to get back on track in making sure that we make the right investments to make sure that all the people that we represent are safe and secure."

When asked about Reid’s comments, White House deputy press secretary Scott Stanzel told ABC News, "It’s unfortunate and unconscionable that Democratic leaders in Congress are trying to use this horrific event as an opportunity to launch partisan attacks," he said. "Now is not the time to point fingers at anyone. It is the time to offer a helping hand to our fellow citizens."

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