After two days of calling for international harmony and peace at the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama will return to his domestic agenda Thursday when he travels to a bridge in Cincinnati to tout his jobs plan.
Let the squabbling resume.
Actually, it already has. Obama’s scheduled appearance at the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects the home states of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has drawn rebukes from his two Republican rivals.
Obama will highlight the dilapidated bridge, which is one of the busiest trucking routes in the nation, as being the kind of infrastructure project that could put unemployed construction workers back on the payroll under his $447 billion American Jobs Act.
The Brent Spence Bridge opened in 1963 with three lanes in each direction and was designed to carry 85,000 vehicles per day. In 1986, the shoulders were paved over to create four lanes on each side, and the bridge now carries roughly twice as many vehicles as it was designed for.
Obama’s jobs plan allocates $50 billion for immediate infrastructure repairs to roads, bridges, train systems and airports.
But critics of Obama’s appearance at the bridge point out that renovation of the bridge and adjoining highways could cost $2.4 billion and work is not scheduled to begin until 2015, meaning immediate new jobs likely won’t be created even if Obama’s jobs bill is approved.
On Wednesday, Boehner’s office called the trip a “political stunt.”
“The Speaker, like everyone in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, knows how important this bridge is. That’s why a replacement project is already underway,” said Brendan Buck, Boehner’s spokesman. “But, due in part to bureaucratic and environmental requirements, it’s at least four years away from being ‘shovel-ready’ - which begs the question: why is the President suggesting it can create jobs now? We want to work with the President to support job creation, but political stunts and empty promises bring us no closer to finding common ground.”
When he announced the trip last week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted the president had no political motivation in making his second trip in as many weeks to Boehner’s home turf. Obama also has appeared at rallies in Richmond, the home district of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and in Raleigh, N.C., a critical swing state that Obama carried in 2008.
But White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer acknowledged the politics behind Obama’s trip, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
“It says a lot that the bridge that would connect the states of two such powerful leaders would be considered functionally obsolete,” Pfeiffer said, according to the Enquirer.
“The president believes that we need to pass the American Jobs Act as soon as possible and in a divided government, the only way to do that is for Republicans to be willing to work with Democrats,” Pfeiffer told the newspaper.
McConnell blasted Obama’s trip to the bridge in a statement.
“President Obama may think the best way to distract people from the challenges we face is to stand near a bridge in a swing state and pit one group of Americans against another, and hope his critics look bad if they don’t go along with him. But I don’t think he’s fooling anybody,” McConnell said. “I don’t think all the campaign stops in the world are going to convince most Americans that the real cause of our problems lies anywhere other than with the policies that are coming out Washington these days.”
On Sunday, Obama will take his jobs tour to the West coast, spending three days making stops in Seattle, San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles and Denver.