Obama blasts Congress on highway funding

 

President Obama on Tuesday chastised Congress for not passing a long-term highway funding solution, even as he signaled support for legislation that would keep construction workers on the job into next year.

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"All this does is set us up for the crisis a few months from now," Obama said during a speech in Northern Virginia. "Congress shouldn't pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months. Kicking the can down the road a few months."

Obama argued that "instead of barely paying our bills in the present, we should be investing in our future," and slammed Republicans for refusing his plan to funnel federal dollars to the Highway Trust Fund by closing corporate tax loopholes. 

Despite preferring a long-term solution, the White House said Monday it would back a $10 billion bill offered by House Republicans that would fund road construction projects into next year.

Democrats had hoped to either pass a long-term bill or one short enough that the issue would come up again in the lame-duck session this winter, rather than in the new Congress.

Senate legislation largely similar to the proposal forwarded by the House also included provisions designed to raise tax revenue by requiring taxpayers to provide more information about their mortgage interest deductions. Democrats said that doing so could raise revenue by increasing compliance with existing tax law.

Republicans on Tuesday argued the inability to pass a long-term solution wasn't their fault, noting Senate Democrats were unable to shepherd the president's proposal through the upper chamber.

"If the president has a plan for a longer-term bill, the Democrat-controlled Senate ought to act on it, but until that happens his speeches on this topic are nothing but background noise," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

But Obama looked to pin blame on Capitol Hill.

"The American people have to demand that folks in Washington do their job," Obama said. "Do something. That's my motto for Congress right now."  

Obama spoke from the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va., a facility that tests new technologies designed to improve highway safety.

"As the father of a daughter who just turned 16, any new technology that makes driving safer is important to me," Obama said.

The president toured the facility and tried a highway driving simulator set up in the warehouse.

"It was sort of like Knight Rider," Obama said. "I have to say it was a little disorienting. I haven't driven in about 6 years." Obama said he had a bit of a "lead foot" after years of being driven in a motorcade, and pushed the simulator up to 90 mph.

"It got me a little queasy, but I've recovered," Obama said.