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Obama pledges to speed up road projects, add jobs

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:26 PM EST, Thu December 15, 2011
President Obama ordered the Transportation Department to award $527 million in road and bridge grants by the end of the year.
President Obama ordered the Transportation Department to award $527 million in road and bridge grants by the end of the year.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • White House orders aim to speed up construction projects
  • Obama blasts Republicans for blocking his jobs bill
  • "If there's money in the pipeline, we want to get it out faster," he says

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday issued new orders aimed at speeding up transportation projects he says will put construction workers back on the job, using the opportunity to blast congressional Republicans who have blocked similar legislation.

Standing before the aging Francis Scott Key Bridge over the Potomac River, Obama again criticized Republicans who have blocked the jobs bill he put forward in September, telling an audience of construction workers, "There's work to be done. There are workers ready to do it. The American people are behind this," he said. "Democrats, Republicans, independents believe in this. These are ideas that have been supported by all those groups in the past. There's no reason not to do it this time."

The White House announced Wednesday that Obama was ordering the Transportation Department award $527 million in pending road and bridge repair grants by the end of the year and speed up applications for another $110 million in financing for projects in 2012. The White House and DOT are also setting up a team to speed reviews of other road and rail projects.

"If there's money already in the pipeline, we want to get it out faster," he said.

Republicans filibustered the Senate version of the president's $447 billion jobs proposal in mid-October, while a $35 billion measure that would have forestalled layoffs of state and local government workers like teachers and police officers was blocked a few days later. Republican leaders particularly opposed raising taxes on top earners to pay for the measures.

"How do we sit back and watch China and Europe build the best bridges and high-speed railroads and gleaming new airports, and we're doing nothing at a time when we've got more than a million unemployed construction workers who could build them right here in America right now?" Obama asked.

Meanwhile, he criticized the House of Representatives for spending time to debate measures like establishing a commemorative baseball coin and a resolution reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the official U.S. motto.

"I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work," he said.

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