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Obama calls on lawmakers to approve $21 billion infrastructure bill

President Obama on Friday called for Congress to approve a $21 billion package aimed at building public-private partnerships to improve the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

“Let's get this done. Let's rebuild this country we love. Let's make sure we're staying on the cutting edge,” Obama told a boisterous crowd on a platform overlooking the Port of Miami.

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The platform provided a view of a $2 billion tunnel project intended to improve congestion and allow for quicker trade. Obama said the project, funded by both public and private dollars, was a template for the rest of the nation.

“We can do this not just here in Miami Dade, but we can do this all across the country,” Obama said, calling for a “partnership to rebuild America.”

Obama suggested creating an infrastructure bank that could help seed major projects, and White House officials say they want Congress to allocate $10 billion for the program.

The president also unveiled a $4 billion investment program in support of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The program, expanded in last year’s transportation bill, is intended to leverage private and nonfederal funding for projects of regional or national significance through loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit.

“Instead of picking projects based on pork barrel politics, we'll pick them based on how good they are for the economy,” Obama said.

Obama additionally called for a set of $7 billion in tax incentives meant to support state and municipal bonds for projects. Among them is a measure that would do away with penalties, sometimes totaling up to 35 percent, on foreign investment in U.S. real estate and infrastructure projects.

The president suggested there was a bipartisan consensus for his proposals, noting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the nation's largest labor organization both back infrastructure spending.

“If you've got the Chamber and the unions agreeing, then the politicians should be able to agree, too,” Obama said.

Still, the plan, which will be included in the president's budget when it is released April 10, is likely to face opposition from Republicans in Congress. On Friday, Obama suggested some hypocrisy from members who railed against government spending but then showed up to ribbon-cutting ceremonies in their districts.

“If you think it's good for your district, then it's probably good for other districts too,” Obama said. “We can't allow Washington politics to get in the way of progress.”

Obama also warned that the United States risked losing jobs and commerce to nations with superior infrastructure if Congress failed to act.

“What are we waiting for? There's work to be done, there's workers that are ready to do it,” Obama said. “Let's prove to the world that there's no better place to be than the United States of America.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in January that he favored infrastructural improvements but questioned how they would be funded.

“It's easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all the things you want to give away, but at some point somebody has to pay the bill,” Boehner said.

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