President Obama is pulling no punches, and offering a few jokes, in his attack of House Republicans for failing to take action on legislation including the depleted Highway Trust Fund.
While standing on Washington, D.C.’s Key Bridge today he said he will continue working on his own to help the middle class and if Congress doesn’t like it “sue me,” he said referring to the lawsuit threatened by Speaker John Boehner over Obama’s administrative actions.
“Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me,” he said to laughter. “As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”
Obama criticized House Republicans for not taking action on the Highway Trust Fund–a fund paid for through a gas tax to help fix roads that will run out by the end of summer.
“All told, nearly 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year. That would be like Congress threatening to lay off the entire population of Denver or Seattle or Boston,” he said. “Soon states may have to choose which projects to continue and which ones to put the brakes on because they’re running out of money.”
In a June 20 letter, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony R. Foxx told state DOT directors the “situation remains dire.”
“If the trust fund becomes insolvent, DOT will likely need to delay some reimbursements owed to your agency. We understand and regret that such measures may be necessary as the current construction season is ongoing. We have and will continue to sound the alarm bell that hundreds of projects and thousands of jobs are at risk,” he wrote.
Obama called on congress to rally behind the idea of “economic patriotism” and stop trying to “score political points” by gridlocking Washington.
“We could do so much more if we just rallied around an economic patriotism, a sense that our job is to get things done as one nation and as one people,” he said. “Economic patriotism would say that instead of protecting corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, let’s make sure they’re paying their fair share of taxes. Let’s reward American workers and businesses that hire them. Let’s put people to work rebuilding America. Let’s invest in manufacturing so the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are right here made in the USA.”
“It’s not crazy. It’s not socialism. You know, it — it’s not, you know, the imperial presidency or, no laws are broken. We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know, 50, 100 years. But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea. I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted. It’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff,” he said to a crowd of 550 that included staff from the Department of Transportation. “No, seriously. I mean, they’re not doing anything. Why, why don’t they do this?”
He continued to criticize house Republicans for not acting on extending unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, and a fair pay proposal.
“And they criticize me for this. Boehner sued me for this. And I told him I’d rather do things with you; pass some laws; make sure the Highway Trust Fund is funded so we don’t lay off hundreds of thousands of workers. It’s not that hard,” he said. “And this obstruction keeps the system rigged for those who are doing fine, at the very top. It prevents us from helping more middle-class families.”
At a press conference last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner said “I know the House Ways and Means Committee is working on a package, and I expect that after the district work period over the Fourth of July, we’ll see some activity there.”
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the Highway Trust Fund began in 1956 and hasn’t seen an increase since 1993 when President Bill Clinton approved a 4 cent a gallon tax increase on fuel.