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Buttigieg's BS comments on the Baltimore bridge collapse

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg had some thoughts on the Baltimore bridge collapse:

"Today this is happening in Baltimore, tomorrow it could be your district. And we really need to stand together — red, blue and purple — to get these things done."

Tomorrow it could be your district? Really? Container ships are taking down major highway bridges all the time? Container ships are operating in every congressional district?

Buttigieg was asked two questions: The first was a technical question about the cleanup efforts, and the second was a political question about infrastructure spending. Buttigieg, who is frequently portrayed in the press as a problem-solver who loves to dig into details, sidesteps the first question to laughter, deferring to the Coast Guard vice admiral who was also participating in the press conference. He instead answers the political question.

“Look, infrastructure is, or at least ought to be, a bipartisan priority,” he begins. He goes on to describe how the 2021 infrastructure law passed with bipartisan support and says he wants Republicans to join with Democrats again in passing new funding for the Baltimore bridge. He says the “tomorrow it could be your district” line as a reminder to “any member who might find themselves on the fence” about supporting additional federal funding.

The bipartisan nature of the infrastructure law is used very opportunistically by the Biden administration, which more often portrays it as Biden’s accomplishment. The official White House X account lambasts Republicans who did not vote for the law and usually refers to it as “President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

Regardless, this incident had nothing to do with infrastructure funding. Ships had been safely passing under the Francis Scott Key Bridge for 47 years before yesterday. The bridge was well maintained by Maryland, earning satisfactory ratings across the board from the Federal Highway Administration. A container ship malfunctioned and crashed into the bridge. There is no possible bridge you could build that would withstand a direct hit from a container ship going the speed it was going.

President Biden promised that the entire bridge will be rebuilt with federal funds. There is no reason for that to be the case. The bridge is owned and operated by the state of Maryland, which has taxing, spending, and borrowing powers of its own. Maryland ran a budget surplus in 2021, 2022, and 2023. The bridge is part of the Interstate Highway System, which is partly funded with federal aid, so there’s a case for federal help. But the federal government does not need to fully fund the project from start to finish, as Biden promised yesterday.

The bipartisan infrastructure law included $1.1 trillion in spending. That’s “trillion,” with a T, from less than three years ago. Most of that money has not actually gone out yet. Let’s use some of that money to aid Maryland in building a new bridge. There’s no reason for any additional federal spending to support the project.

But the Biden administration wants to look like it is saving the day in an election year by footing the bill, and Buttigieg wants to browbeat Republicans into voting for more unnecessary infrastructure spending to accomplish that. Buttigieg lets people who actually know how transportation works answer the transportation questions and takes the partisan political tasks for himself.

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