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Obama urges Congress to act on highway, FAA measures

August 31, 2011|By Christi Parsons
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)

President Obama put another item on the to-do list for Congress Wednesday, calling on lawmakers in a Rose Garden appearance to quickly pass two transportation measures set to expire in September.

Flanked by four workers he said would be out of work without the reauthorization, Obama urged lawmakers not to let politics get in the way of passing the Surface Transportation Bill or the Federal Aviation Administration act.

“All of them will be out of a job just because of politics in Washington,” Obama said of the construction workers standing next to him. “Now is the time to put country before party.”

Obama has addressed the recessing Congress several times in recent days, urging them to take up various proposals to spur job creation and economic growth when they return to town in September. Obama framed the transportation bills as jobs measures.

At stake is funding for highway construction, bridge repair and mass transit systems, as well as the FAA. Thousands of federal workers were forced to take a brief furlough this summer when Congress held up extension of FAA funding.

A ten-day delay in approving the highway bill would mean $1 billion in lost highway funding, according to administration projections. Roughly a million people could lose their jobs over the next year if the measure isn’t extended.

Joining Obama for the announcement were officials of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, standing together next to the president for the remarks.

Kim Erby, a heavy truck driver in the Rose Garden audience, said she noticed frustration on the part of the president, who just spent the summer fighting with Republicans in Congress over budget, debt and deficit matters.

“I sense the frustration,” said Erby, an employee of DC-based Fort Myer Construction Corp, “but I hope they can come together and get something done.”

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