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Obama renews push for $50-billion infrastructure program

The White House estimates that the 'roads, railways and runways' plan would create a raft of middle-class jobs in manufacturing and construction. Congress may not get to it until December.

October 12, 2010|By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau
  • President Obama speaks while flanked by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in the Rose Garden at the White House.
President Obama speaks while flanked by Secretary of Transportation Ray… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )

Reporting from Washington — President Obama made a new pitch for his $50-billion "roads, railways and runways" program Monday, saying that there is a crucial need to upgrade the nation's infrastructure capacity and American competitiveness in the 21st century depends on swift action.

Clogged roads, airways and other infrastructure chip away at worker productivity, Obama said, and the longer the country waits to fix it, "the deeper our competitive edge erodes."

Speaking to reporters in the Rose Garden, Obama pitched the plan as a benefit to the economy — though he also alluded to the politics of the moment, noting the steadfast Republican opposition to most of his plans.

In a "season of choices," Obama said, one of the decisions Americans must make is between "decline and prosperity."

The administration also issued a report estimating the spending program would create a raft of middle-class jobs in manufacturing, construction and retail. The report said more than half of the new jobs would come in construction, where unemployment figures are higher than 17%.

First unveiled on Labor Day, the plan figures into the election picture for Democrats, who are under pressure to show how the economy will improve under Obama's stewardship and theirs.

To pass the measure, the president needs to win over Republicans, who generally have opposed his suggestions for government spending as a way out of the country's economic malaise.

"Because the November lame-duck session is all booked up, the very earliest the Senate could consider the president's proposal now would be December," said Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "And that's assuming that the committees could/would want to act in time — a huge 'if.' "

cparsons@tribune.com

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