Making the case once again for a federal infrastructure bank, President Obama spoke on Wednesday at Key Bridge, which spans between D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood and Arlington, Va. The speech is well-timed, given that the Senate is expected to vote on Obama’s infrastructure bill Thursday, but it is unlikely to garner any more congressional support than the president’s last bridge speech.
The 60-vote threshold that sunk the last two efforts by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to pass the president’s jobs plan (in full or in part) may doom the infrastructure proposal as well. Republicans oppose the regulations that a national infrastructure bank may attach to its loans and the immediate $50 billion investment the bill requires. Even reauthorizing federal transportation expenditures at the status quo was a challenge.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the historic Key Bridge (named after the creator of "The Star-Spangled Banner") is in need of “crucial repairs” and “maintenance work.” Of course, the president isn’t just making the case for drivers; he has long pointed to bridges as job-creating projects.
“Millions of construction workers have had to look for a job,” Obama said. “So today I'm joining many of these workers to say that it makes absolutely no sense, when there's so much work to be done, that they're not doing the work. Not when there are so many roads and bridges and runways waiting to be repaired and waiting to be rebuilt.”
Despite the doubtful outlook for Thursday’s vote, the president continued to make the case that constituents calling their representatives in Congress could make a difference.
“We've just got to get folks in Congress to share the same sense of national urgency that mayors and governors and the American people do all across the country.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney admitted to reporters on Tuesday that the White House is at a loss when it comes to swaying Republicans to vote for the bill. And as with other proposals that failed to gain 60 votes, the infrastructure call will be met with the administration’s plan B. Moments before the president’s speech, the White House announced $527 million in competitive TIGER grants from the Department of Transportation; an order for the department to shorten its application process for 2012 funding; and the establishment of a Transportation Rapid Response Team to speed up reviews for surface transportation projects. But like the executive orders announced last week, Wednesday’s transportation announcements will not bring peace of mind to a White House pushing for grand-scale infrastructure investments.
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Andrew Joseph contributed contributed to this article.