President Obama is keeping his message about improving the nation’s transportation infrastructure front-and-center, using debate on the federal budget deficit to say a debt deal with Congress could clear the way for new investments.
Obama spoke several times between major negotiations at the White House with congressional leaders in recent days about infrastructure and its benefits.
In a July 11 press conference, just ahead of another negotiating session that day, the president twice said that getting a deficit deal could clear the way for job-creating programs like an infrastructure bank to invest in transportation projects.
“Could we imagine a project where we’re rebuilding roads and bridges and ports and schools and broadband lines and smart grids, and taking all those construction workers and putting them to work right now?” he asked reporters. “ I can imagine a very aggressive program like that, that I think the American people would rally around and would be good for the economy not just next year or the year after, but for the next 20 or 30 years. But we can’t even have that conversation if people feel as if we don't have our fiscal house in order.”
With a deficit accord, Obama added, “We will then be in a position to make the kind of investments that I think are going to be necessary to win the future.”
While the deficit talks are focused on cutting many areas of federal spending, Obama and his deficit commission last year have argued that infrastructure spending needs to rise. “By getting our fiscal house in order, Congress will be in a stronger position to focus on some of the job-creating measures I’ve already proposed — like putting people to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure,” Obama said in his July 9 weekly radio address.
A day earlier, following a dismal June jobs report, he called on Congress to pass transportation infrastructure legislation and pass three pending bilateral trade agreements to help spur more hiring.
Congress while cutting the deficit can still make “the investments that help put people to work right now and make us more competitive in the future,” he said.
Obama listed transportation legislation as one place to start. “Right now, there are over a million construction workers out of work after the housing boom went bust, just as a lot of America needs rebuilding. We connect the two by investing in rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our railways and our infrastructure,” he said.
Referring to bilateral trade pacts that await congressional approval, Obama said, “Congress can advance trade agreements that will help businesses sell more American-made goods and services to Asia and South America, supporting thousands of jobs here at home.”
He said lawmakers already have bipartisan support for those and other measures, such as streamlining patent procedures and extending a small payroll tax cut, that could boost job creation.