Obama Attacks Boehner, McConnell on Bridge Connecting Kentucky and Ohio

By Fred Lucas | September 22, 2011 | 5:20 PM EDT

President Barack Obama gestures while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) – Speaking in front of a bridge connecting the district of House Speaker John Boehner to the state of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Barack Obama said the two GOP leaders have the ability to kill or pass his jobs bill.

“Now, the bridge behind us just so happens to connect the state that’s home to the Speaker of the House with the state that’s home to the Minority Leader of the Senate,” Obama said Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Cincinnati, Ohio to Covington, Ky.

“Sheer coincidence, of course,” Obama said. “But part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell are the two most powerful Republicans in government. They can either kill this jobs bill, or they can help us pass it.”

Obama proposed a $447 billion American Jobs Act that would spend money on hiring more school teachers, police officers and firefighters, but a key part of that devotes more to infrastructure. Obama also proposed a $1.5 trillion tax increase package to both pay for the jobs bill and reduce the federal deficit.

“I know these men care about their states, and I can’t imagine that the speaker wants to represent a state where nearly one in four bridges is classified as substandard,” Obama said.

“I know that when Senator McConnell visited the closed bridge in Kentucky, he said that ‘roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington.’ I know that Paul Ryan, the Republican in charge of the budget process, recently said you can’t deny that “infrastructure does create jobs,” he added.

The bridge carries about 150,000 vehicles, and according to news reports would cost $2.4 billion to replace and likely could not provide new construction jobs until 2013 at the earliest.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) accompanied the president on Air Force One, and discussed infrastructure projects with him. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Covington Mayor Denny Bowman and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory all greeted Obama when the plane landed.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Thursday that “According to highway officials in Ohio and Kentucky, the bridge is still in the preliminary engineering and environmental clearance phase. In a best case scenario, the earliest that workers would be hired would be in 2013, but more likely 2015.”

Meanwhile, Fox TV affiliate Fox 19 reported on Tuesday, “So what will it take to replace the nearly 50-year-old bridge that is clearly in need of replacement? For starters, about $2.4 billion dollars. Typically these projects require 80 percent funding from the Feds and another 20 percent from state and local governments. That means the Feds could kick in $1.9 billion for the project, but that would still require $500 million from state and local governments. So far, only about $90 million has been allocated.”

Further, Fox 19 reported “Even if 100 percent of the funding was in place, meaning the Feds picked up the tab for the entire project, the Brent Spence project is still, at minimum, 4 years away from breaking ground. That is because federal environmental studies are still not complete.”

Still, Obama challenged the lawmakers on the matter.

“Well if that’s the case, then there’s no reason for Republicans in Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects. There’s no reason to stand in the way of more jobs,” Obama said. “Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work. Pass this jobs bill right away.”

Obama also defended the need to hike taxes on the wealthy.

“This isn’t to punish success,” Obama said. “What’s great about this country is our belief that anyone can make it – the idea that any one of us can open a business or have an idea that could make us millionaires. All I’m saying is that those who have done the best in this country should contribute to its success.

“The Republicans in Congress call this class warfare,” Obama later said, repeating a line he used at a recent fundraising event. “Well you know what? If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as plumber or teacher makes me a warrior for the middle class, I'll wear that charge as a badge of honor. Because the only class warfare I've seen is the battle that's been waged against the middle class in this country for a decade.”