- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

President Obama said Tuesday he supports short-term bills in the House and Senate to fund infrastructure projects, but said lawmakers should by no means be proud of those efforts.

Speaking at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va., Mr. Obama continued his weeklong focus on America’s crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels, railways and other critical pieces of infrastructure.

He’ll also address the issue Thursday during a speech in Delaware and will announce new executive actions to attract private-sector investment into infrastructure projects.

“This is not an abstract issue, and it shouldn’t be even a partisan issue. Republicans, Democrats, independents — everybody uses our roads. After this last winter, you have potholes everywhere wrecking your car,” the president said.

As the president spoke, the federal Highway Trust Fund continued on its road to insolvency. The fund, which gets money from taxes on gasoline and diesel, disperses dollars to states to fund infrastructure work. It’s projected to run dry as soon as next month.

While the administration has proposed a massive four-year, $302 billion plan — paid for partly through tax hikes — to replenish the fund, leaders in both the GOP-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate have instead embraced short-term, $11 billion measures.

The House could vote as early as Tuesday on its version.

The administration backs those efforts, but Mr. Obama said lawmakers are stopping far short of what is needed.

“Congress shouldn’t pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months,” he said. “Instead of barely paying our bills in the present, we should be investing in the future. We should have a plan for how we’re going to make sure our roads, our bridges, our airports, our power grids, our water systems — how all of of those things are going to be funded.”

Meanwhile, Republicans countered that even Senate Democrats haven’t embraced the president’s long-term infrastructure plan. Leaders in the chamber agree a more permanent fix is needed, but so far they haven’t brought up Mr. Obama’s proposal.

The president “says he has a better, long-term plan to replenish the Highway Trust Fund (Translation: It raises taxes), but if that’s the case, shouldn’t Senate Democrats schedule a vote on it?” said Matt Wolking, communications adviser to House Speaker John A. Boehner. “Until they do, the president’s speeches on the issue are nothing but background noise.”

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