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Obama pushes $50 billion in infrastructure spending

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Moving America forward on Labor Day
  • NEW: The plan would rebuild roads, rails and runways
  • Obama delivers his remarks at a Labor Day event in Wisconsin
  • The president's plan would need Congressional approval
  • His speeches this week will focus on the economy

Milwaukee, Wisconsin (CNN) -- President Barack Obama, in a bid to create jobs and boost economic growth, called on Congress on Monday to pass a $50 billion plan to renew the country's transportation infrastructure.

His address was the first of two speeches the president is scheduled to make this week to frame his administration's ongoing response to the recession, less than two months ahead of midterm elections in which Democratic majorities in the House and Senate are in jeopardy.

"Today, I am announcing a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America's roads, and rails and runways for the long term," said Obama, who spoke on Labor Day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin -- a state with competitive gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

"We used to have the best infrastructure in the world. We can have it again," he said to loud cheers from a crowd of union workers.

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The proposal envisions -- over a six year period -- rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of rail and 150 miles of airport runways. It also would include modernizing the nation's air traffic control system in an effort to reduce delays and travel time.

"This will not only create jobs immediately. It's also going to make our economy hum over the long haul," said the president.

Obama hopes to work with Congress to enact an up-front investment of $50 billion -- an amount a White House statement said would represent a significant chunk of new spending on infrastructure.

The investment would then be paired with what the administration called a framework to improve transportation spending.

The long-term plan would include the establishment of an Infrastructure Bank, which would leverage federal dollars and focus on projects that could deliver the the biggest bang for the buck, Obama said.

The president stressed the need for Democrats and Republicans to work together on the transportation initiative, which would need to be approved by Congress.

Congress returns from recess next week and will likely be in session for less than a month before leaving Washington for midterm elections.

On Monday, before Obama's speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, criticized the plan and said Americans do not want to pay want higher taxes.

"A last-minute, cobbled-together stimulus bill with more than $50 billion in new tax hikes will not reverse the complete lack of confidence Americans have in Washington Democrats' ability to help this economy," he said in a statement.

Obama is focused this week on the economy, after a week in which his administration concentrated on Middle East peace talks and the end of America's combat role in Iraq.

Senior aides have said the president recently asked his economic team to come up with various proposals he could roll out to show he's working hard to kick-start growth. Ideas have included more federal spending on infrastructure projects and tax cuts popular with the business community, such as a permanent extension of the research and development tax credit.

However, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday suggests the White House still has work to do to win over the American public. Nearly six in 10 respondents disapproved of Obama's track record on the economy, which is the No. 1 issue in the minds of Americans.

On Wednesday, the president is scheduled to deliver an economic speech in hard-hit Cleveland, Ohio -- a state that has competitive U.S. House and Senate races that will help determine control of Congress.

CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry contributed to this report.