President Obama is getting a little strange bedfellow help on his plans to rebuild the nation’s bridges from the unlikeliest of sources: none other than Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
Paul accompanied the President on Air Force One Tuesday to Cincinnati and attended Obama’s jobs speech in front of the crumbling Brent Spence Bridge, which spans Southern Ohio, conveniently close to Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) district, and Northern Kentucky, home to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Both Boehner and McConnell have rejected the majority of the President’s jobs plan.But Obama and Tea Party darling Paul seemed downright chummy Tuesday. The President even gave him a shout-out to Paul during his opening remarks.
“Senator Rand Paul is here,” Obama said.
The pro-Obama crowd responded with a resounding, “boooo.”
The President told the crowd it was okay: “Rand is going to be supporting bridges.”
Of course, Paul isn’t really supporting the President’s plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, even though he would like to see several of the aging bridges in Kentucky renovated with federal dollars. Instead, he has his own, alternative proposal.
Paul has said he wants to pay for the needed bridge repairs from an emergency bridge fund that would tap money previously set aside for projects that Paul has deemed unnecessary.
“From my point of view, I think this is a smaller, more narrow proposal, and it stands a better chance than a broader proposal,” Paul told the Indiana Republic in what he described as a “very cordial” discussion with the President.
“This bill truly is a way to begin doing this immediately,” Paul said. “Everything else is completely grandstand. If the President agrees to help me with this, it could actually work. … This actually would allow the highway administrator to prioritize bridge projects to immediately begin spending money on the ones that highway engineers say are deficient.”
Paul spokeswoman Moira Bagley, who was traveling with her boss Tuesday, provided TPM a detailed, point-by-point outline of Paul’s bridge-building plan, you can read here.
In essence, the plan would redirect low-priority spending for optional projects such as such as “landscaping, scenic beautification, and transportation museums” to much needed safety repairs, and therefore, would have no net spending increase. It also would establish a national priority list of infrastructure repairs based on the importance of the project.
“The Secretary of Transportation will create and maintain a list of emergency transportation safety needs around the country, and will rank projects by criteria including whether the safety issue necessitates the closure of a bridge or road, the impact on interstate commerce, the volume of traffic using the bridge or road, and the overall value of the project,” the plan states.