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Republican: 'Outrageous' for Biden to promise feds will pay for Baltimore bridge

Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) criticized President Biden on Thursday for pledging that the federal government will pay for the replacement of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, which collapsed earlier this week after it was struck by a container ship, killing six people. 

Biden said the federal government will “move heaven and earth” to rebuild the bridge. The collapse has thrown East Coast shipping into chaos, shutting down the Port of Baltimore and severing Interstate 695.

“It was kind of outrageous immediately for Biden to express in this tragedy the idea that he’s going to use federal funds to pay for the entirety [of the bridge],” Meuser said in a Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo. “First reaction, frankly the only reaction, tends to be to spend.”

Biden on Tuesday pledged to send Baltimore “all the federal resources they need as we respond to this emergency,” promising “we’re going to rebuild that port together.”

“It’s my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect the Congress to support my effort,” he said in remarks at the White House. “This is going to take some time, but the people of Baltimore can count on us though to stick with them at every step of the way until the port is reopen and the bridge is rebuilt.”

It’s unclear how much a new bridge would cost or how long it would take to build. Federal officials told Maryland leaders Wednesday that it could cost as much as $2 billion, Roll Call reported.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday that the federal government has about $950 million in funds authorized for emergency use, meaning congressional action is likely required to fully cover the cost of the bridge.

Meuser proposed seeking funds from the Singapore government, where the container ship MV Dali is registered, or pursuing the shipping company’s insurance.

“We just can’t take the easy route all the time and just try to spend the taxpayers’ money,” he said. “There’s no thought. Just spend.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet determined the exact cause for why the Dali struck one of the bridge’s main support columns. Preliminary reports suggest the ship may have lost power and was unable to steer out of the way of the bridge.

The six people killed in the collapse were roadway workers fixing potholes. Two other people were rescued from the river with injuries.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday that it will deploy 1,100 personnel to Baltimore to help clear the wreckage of the fallen bridge, which has blocked the entrance to the Port of Baltimore.

The closure is likely to have massive economic impacts on Baltimore, where the port is used to import cars and food products and export coal. Maryland state data indicated that 850,000 car and truck imports have rotated through the area, and some 30,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily. The port also supports about 15,000 jobs.

Source: The Hill

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