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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bush Signs $286.4 Billion Transportation Bill - New York Times

Bush Signs $286.4 Billion Transportation Bill - New York TimesAugust 10, 2005
Bush Signs $286.4 Billion Transportation Bill

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 - President Bush happily signed the $286.4 billion transportation bill today in a bipartisan celebration that demonstrated the unifying powers of roads, bridges and other public works projects.

"This bill's going to help modernize the highway system and improve quality of life for a lot of people," Mr. Bush declared at a Caterpillar plant in the Chicago suburb of Montgomery, Ill.

"Highways just don't happen," Mr. Bush went on. "People have got to show up and do the work to refit a highway or build a bridge, and they need new equipment to do so. So the bill I'm signing is going to help give hundreds of thousands of Americans good-paying jobs."

The transportation bill includes money for thousands of projects across the country. To put it another way, it has something for every state and just about every Congressional district, as reflected in the votes that enacted it in late July: 412 to 8 in the House and 91 to 4 in the Senate.

Critics of the bill have complained that it is wasteful. But the president, who flew to Illinois from his ranch in Crawford, Tex., rejected that view. "It accomplishes goals in a fiscally responsible way," he said.

Mr. Bush heaped praise on Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, whose district includes Montgomery and who introduced the president today. Mr. Bush also had warm words for other Republicans who helped to fashion the bill and who accompanied him today: Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and Representatives Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Tom Petri of Wisconsin, who is on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

But in a striking example of friendliness across the political divide, Mr. Bush said he was proud to be with Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, Senators Richard J. Durbin and Barack Obama of Illinois, and Representative Rahm Emanuel of the Chicago area - Democrats all.

The ranking Democrat on the House transportation committee, Representative James L. Oberstar of Minnesota, was applauded after being recognized by Mr. Bush, who apparently has forgiven him for a gibe in last year's campaign.

Last October, President Bush rechristened the Iron Range region of Minnesota, calling it "the Iron Ridge." Shortly thereafter, at a rally in chilly Hibbing, Minn., Mr. Oberstar pounced upon Mr. Bush's mistake.

"Welcome to the Iron Ridge!" Mr. Oberstar shouted, to guffaws. "Poor old George. He was thinking of his Homeland Security Secretary - Tom Range!"

All that was forgotten today, as President Bush even paid tribute to Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, a Democrat who had worked hard to defeat the president and whose brother William was Al Gore's campaign chairman in 2000. (The Daleys did defeat Mr. Bush, at least in Illinois. Mr. Bush was swamped there in 2000 and 2004.)

This morning, Mr. Bush called Richard Daley "a great mayor of a great city" after observing "you want him on your side."

On the transportation bill, at least, Democrats and Republicans were on the same side today.

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