- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 17, 2014

President Obama made clear this week he intends to use crumbling roads and stalled infrastructure projects across the country as political tools heading into the November midterm elections.

Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden have hammered home the importance of infrastructure investment over the past few days, and reminded Americans that vital construction projects could come to a grinding halt if the federal Highway Trust Fund runs dry, as it’s on track to do by August.

If that happens and road-repair and other construction projects are halted, the White House already has laid the groundwork to place the blame solely on Republicans.

“Instead of putting people to work on projects that would grow the economy for everyone. [Republicans] voted to give a huge tax cut to households making more than $1 million a year. So while Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’ll keep doing what I can on my own,” the president said in his weekly address. “But we could do a lot more if Congress was willing to help.”

Republicans also have countered that if the president were serious about putting Americans to work, he would immediately approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which has been under federal review for the entirety of Mr. Obama’s time in the White House.

While it’s unclear what will happen with Keystone, it’s only a matter of time before the highway fund dries up.

The fund gets its money from taxes on gasoline and diesel. Americans are driving less than in past years and many are using more fuel-efficient vehicles, meaning less money gets deposited into the fund.

Mr. Obama has proposed a massive new infrastructure spending bill to ensure construction projects don’t fall by the wayside over the summer, but Republicans oppose it. It appears a short-term funding bill may materialize, providing infrastructure money through the midterm elections while a long-term fix is worked out.

In the meantime, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden are seizing the opportunity to blast Republicans and aid fellow Democrats up for re-election.

The president appeared earlier this week at New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge, where a nearly $4 billion repair job is taking place.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden also visited a Shake Shack in Washington on Friday and met with local construction workers. The employees are working on a $9.1 million reconstruction project on Washington’s First Street NE, funded in part by $6.9 million in federal aid.

The president and vice president used the meeting to again blast the GOP.

“Now is the time to do it, and we’ve got outstanding contractors and workers ready to work,” the president said Friday. “So I hope Congress gets working, and I’m prepared to work with anybody on a bipartisan basis to get it done.”



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