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Wednesday
Aug312011

Obama Urges Congress to Pass Transportation Bill

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to quickly pass legislation to continue funding transportation and infrastructure, saying it would be “inexcusable” for lawmakers to put more American jobs at risk.

“At a time when a lot of people in Washington are talking about creating jobs, it’s time to stop the political gamesmanship that can actually cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. This should not be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue,” Obama said in the Rose Garden.

The president called on lawmakers to pass “clean extensions” of the Surface Transportation Bill, also referred to as the “highway bill,” and the Federal Aviation Administration Re-authorization, claiming both measures are necessary to protect the economy and the American workforce.

According to the White House, there are a million jobs riding on the highway bill and over 4,000 workers will be furloughed immediately if it is allowed to expire.

“That’s just not acceptable,” Obama said. “It’s inexcusable to put more jobs at risk in an industry that’s already been one of the hardest hit over the last decade. It’s inexcusable to cut off necessary investments at a time when so many of our highways are choked with congestion, when so many of our bridges are in need of repair, when so many commuters depend on reliable public transit and when travel and shipping delays cost businesses billions of dollars every single year.”

Obama was joined at the event by AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka on one side and Chamber of Commerce COO David Chavern on the other. He described them as “two organizations that don’t always see eye to eye,” and said their support proved that Congress needs to pass the bills.

The president’s speech was an offensive move by the White House to get ahead of lawmakers as Republicans in the House of Representatives and Democrats in the U.S. Senate have disagreements about the two bills. The transportation bill is set to expire at the end of September, but the House and Senate remain far apart on the legislation, which provides funding for highway construction, bridge repair, mass transit systems and revenue in the form of the federal gas tax. The House has proposed a 6-year, $235-billion bill, while the Senate wants a two-year, $109-billion measure.

Because the differences between the two chambers are so great, Congress will likely need to pass a short-term extension to avoid a shutdown at the end of next month. Democrats fear Republicans will try to attach extraneous riders, which is why the president called for a “clean extension.”

The president also called for Congress to pass a long-term extension of funding for the FAA. Earlier this summer, close to 4,000 federal employees were furloughed and tens of thousands of construction workers found themselves out a job when Congress broke for its summer recess before passing the routine extension. A short-term extension was ultimately passed, but it is set to expire Sept. 16.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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