GOP senator sees better chance for road, rail spending in an election year than now

Congress will be more open to approving an infrastructure bill in an election year than it is now, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said Tuesday.

Kirk, who holds the Senate seat once held by President Obama, said that thinking shaped a $100 billion bill he is pushing to boost public-private partnerships for transportation projects.

My direction to my staff was [to] go further than anyone in Congress might want, because my prediction is by next spring, when Congress actually likes to do transportation projects on the eve of an election, everyone will perceive the funding gap, he said in a speech at the Chamber of Commerce.

Kirk said some might think it unusual for a Republican who took over a Democratic presidents Senate seat to advocate a spending bill, but he said a Republican president from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, was a big infrastructure supporter too. 

What is the third-biggest accomplishment of the Lincoln administration? he said. One was the Emancipation Proclamation, two was winning the Civil War and Id argue three was the TransContinental Railroad. 

Kirk differentiated his bill — the Lincoln Legacy Infrastructure Development Act — from other infrastructure bills put forth by Obama and Democrats in Congress, such as a $60 billion measure containing portions of the proposed jobs bill that was recently voted down by the Senate.

Those measures, he said Tuesday, were messaging bills intended to boost Democrats election chances next year.

Kirk also said he thinks a Republican could beat President Obama next year. 

I used to be pretty down on the possibility of a Republican winning the White House, he said. Now theres a significant chance of the president not being re-elected. 

Kirk said that might improve the prospects of his infrastructure bill being approved. 

My job now is to work with whoever the Republican nominee is, who might end up appointing a [Transportation] secretary, he said.