President Obama assailed lawmakers today for failing to invest in infrastructure, calling out Republicans by name and even invoking God in his effort to pressure Congress to vote on the infrastructure portion of his stalled $447 billion jobs bill.
Delivering yet another speech in front of a bridge in need of repair, Obama said House Republicans should work to put people back to work, instead of focusing on other measures that don’t create jobs, such as debating a commemorative baseball coin or legislation reaffirming the “In God We Trust” motto.
“That’s not putting people back to work,” Obama said as he stood before the Key Bridge that connects Washington, D.C., to Northern Virginia. “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.”
The president directly attacked House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for recognizing the need to invest in infrastructure to boost the economy but failing to act to create construction jobs.
“So if the speaker of the House, the Republican leader in the Senate, all the Democrats, all say that this is important to do, why aren’t we doing it? What’s holding us back? Let’s get moving, and put America back to work,” he said.
To underscore his point, the president also cited Republican President Ronald Reagan, noting that he once said that “the bridges and highways we fail to repair today will have to be rebuilt tomorrow at many times the cost.”
“Since when do we have Republicans voting against Ronald Reagan’s ideas?” Obama asked.
The president urged Congress to pass legislation that would invest $50 billion to rebuild the country’s roads and bridges, saying they have “another chance” to put construction workers back on the job. The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on whether to take up the measure.
Obama said failure to invest in roads and bridges amounts to a tax, noting that the nation’s aging infrastructure is costing Americans $130 billion a year. “That’s a tax on our businesses. That’s a tax on our consumers,” he said. “It is coming out of your pocket. It’s a drag on our overall economy. And if we don’t act now, it could cost America hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs by the end of the decade.”
While his jobs bill remains stymied in Congress, the president continued to stress “we can’t wait for Congress to do its job. If they won’t act, I will.”
As part of his ongoing “we can’t wait” campaign, the president announced today that he is going to expedite loans and competitive grants for new construction projects across the country. “If there’s money already in the pipeline, we want to get it out faster,” he said.
House Republicans say the president simply is trying to divert attention from the many job-creating measures that they have passed and sent to the Senate. “At this point, the White House will create any sideshow they can to distract from the fact the House has sent jobs bill after jobs bill over to the Democrat-run Senate, only to see them collect dust,” a Boehner spokesman said.