CINCINNATI, Ohio — US President Barack Obama on Thursday used a decaying bridge between the states of his top two political foes to step up his push for his economic rescue plan.
Obama traveled to Cincinnati in the key 2012 swing state of Ohio, to renew his demands that a sluggish Congress pass his $447 billion jobs bill, which he said is vital to tackling unemployment and rebuilding his trust with American voters.
The president used the heavily trafficked bridge between Kentucky — home state of top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell and Ohio, home to House Speaker John Boehner, as a symbol of decaying US infrastructure.
“The reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, those are the two most powerful Republicans in government. They can either kill this jobs bill or they can help pass this jobs bill,” Obama said.
“Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge,” Obama said, in a rhetorical echo of president Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in 1987.
“Help us rebuild America. Help us put construction workers back to work.”
Republicans, who have made no secret of their desire to defeat Obama in his reelection bid in 2012, dismissed the visit as nothing more than a political stunt.
Boehner said he had long supported replacing the bridge and was glad the president was drawing attention to it.
Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell was more acerbic.
“I would suggest, Mr. President, that you think about ways to actually help the people of Kentucky and Ohio, instead of how you can use their roads and bridges as a backdrop for making a political point,” he said.
“If you’re truly interested in helping our state — if you really want to help our state — then come back to Washington and work with Republicans on legislation that will actually do something to revive our economy and create jobs.
“And forget the political theater.”
The White House however said that the bridge was being used as a symbol of hundreds of infrastructure projects around America which could be repaired and put people back to work.
“It’s an important bridge that has been declared “functionally obsolete,” and is in need of repair — which makes it, sadly, very common in the United States,” said Obama spokesman Jay Carney.
“There are thousands and thousands and thousands of bridges and roads that are desperately in need of repair, which this President believes should be repaired as part of our effort both to put Americans back to work and to upgrade our infrastructure so that we can compete in the 21st century.”