President Obama on Wednesday defended his 2009 stimulus package and unveiled a new initiative that would provide grants for repairing the nation's infrastructure.
Speaking from the Union Depot in St. Paul, Minn., the president cited the station, which had been refurbished and improved thanks to TIGER grants from the stimulus, as an example of successful spending to improve infrastructure and create jobs.
The president said the stimulus had “actually worked, despite what everybody claimed” and announced a competition for a new round of federal grants to fix the nation’s roads, bridges and transportation hubs.
“I’m here to launch a new competition for 21st-century infrastructure and the jobs that come with it,” said Obama.
“Any opportunity agenda begins with creating good jobs,” he continued. “One of the fastest and best ways to create good jobs is by rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”
The president said the grants had already “given a boost to 270 infrastructure projects across all 50 states.”
The $600 million in new grants will go to state and local governments with proposals to “modernize transportation infrastructure” and that have lined up additional support from private entities.
The president has framed his push for infrastructure as tied to a broader effort to create jobs, shore up the middle class and keep the nation economically competitive with other countries.
“We have 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare,” said the president.
He added that residents of Minnesota know that “when we go through a winter like this roads are wrecked, full of potholes across the country.”
Obama said that the nation’s infrastructure was “vital to business.”
“It creates good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced,” he said.
Obama’s speech in St. Paul was just the latest in a series of events to announce new initiatives and executive orders to promote his economic agenda in the face of opposition from the GOP-controlled House.
The president has vowed to work with Congress where he can but to move ahead unilaterally when lawmakers fail to act.
The president said his own forthcoming budget proposal would request over $300 billion in new infrastructure spending.
“While Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to do what I can to create more good jobs,” Obama added.
The president warned that if Congress failed to pass transportation funding by the end of the summer, projects across the country would grind to a halt, costing workers their jobs.