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Obama urges Congress to pass infrastructure bill

By the CNN Wire Staff
President Barack Obama urging Congress to pass infrastructure bill or warning of disastrous economic consequences.
President Barack Obama urging Congress to pass infrastructure bill or warning of disastrous economic consequences.
  • NEW: GOP spokesman calls Obama's remarks "irresponsible" and "transparently political"
  • Obama calls on Congress to pass an extension of the Surface Transportation Bill
  • The measure is responsible for major federal funding of the nation's highway system
  • Obama warns of dire economic consequences if the measure -- set to expire in September -- is not extended

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama called on Congress Wednesday to quickly renew legislation critical to the maintenance and improvement of the nation's highway system, warning that failure to do so could have disastrous economic consequences.

The current Surface Transportation Bill is set to expire at the end of September.

"For construction workers and their families across the country, (this bill) represents the difference between making ends meet or not making ends meet," Obama said at the White House.

"It's inexcusable to put more jobs at risk in an industry that's already been one of the hardest hit over the last decade. It's inexcusable to cut off necessary investments at a time when so many of our highways are choked with congestion, when so many of our bridges are in need of repair, when so many commuters depend on reliable public transit, and when travel and shipping delays cost businesses billions of dollars every single year."

Obama said that a failure to reauthorize the legislation could cause up to one million workers to lose their jobs. A 10-day delay will result in a loss of nearly $1 billion in highway funding, he noted.

The president was joined during his remarks by top officials from the Democratic-leaning AFL-CIO and the Republican-leaning Chamber of Commerce.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are sharply divided over both the cost and duration of any extension.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, blasted Obama's remarks, calling them a form of political fear-mongering.

"Aside from the president today, no one has suggested the highway bill will be allowed to expire," Brendan Buck said in a written statement. "These types of scare tactics are irresponsible, transparently political, and needlessly add uncertainty to our economy."

Roughly 4,000 federal employees were briefly furloughed earlier this summer when a political impasse prevented Congress from passing what traditionally has been a routine extension of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The temporary funding shortfall also threatened tens of thousands of jobs in the construction industry, along with a number of airport improvement projects.

Congressional leaders ultimately passed a short-term extension of full FAA funding, though the issues that led to its temporary delay remained unresolved. Obama urged Congress Wednesday to pass a long-term funding extension for the FAA as well.

CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report