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Baltimore’s mayor calls for bipartisan Key Bridge repair as he faces GOP opposition

The mayor of the city of Baltimore is calling on Congress to act as a united body in response to the devastation caused by the crash of a massive container ship into his city’s iconic Francis Scott Key Bridge, which destroyed the crossing and has shut down one of the biggest ports on the East Coast.

Mayor Brandon Scott appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation and told guest host Ed O’Keefe that the disaster was more than just an issue for his state, citing the specific sectors likely to be impacted by the expected months-long closure of the port. The Port of Baltimore is the largest import site for foreign automobiles in the United States, and also services other sectors including agriculture.

“This should not be something that has anything or any conversation around party,” he told CBS. “It matters to the global economy.”

The federal government is expected to pay the vast majority of the cost required to clear the wreckage from the Patapsco River, remove the trapped container ship and rebuild the bridge. Maryland officials have already begun receiving an initial transfer of $60m from federal emergency funds, and members of the state’s congressional delegation including Senator Ben Cardin have said that such funding is likely to cover about 90 per cent of the projected $2bn or thereabouts required for the repair process.

President Joe Biden pledged to support that bid this week, telling Marylanders in an address from the White House: “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.”

“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.”

The president is expected to visit the state in the days ahead.

Maryland officials and their representatives on Capitol Hill are expected to push for the remainder to be funded through legislation. Already, a few Republicans have come out against that idea — none, however, are connected to leadership.

Rep Ralph Norman, a top Nikki Haley backer until her presidential campaign ended after Super Tuesday, blasted the idea in a statement to The Hill, calling it “totally absurd”.

Dan Meuser, from Maryland’s neighbour to the north, called the president’s pledge to support the push for further funding “outrageous” in a Fox Business interview.

“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. You know, he doesn’t refer to it as the American taxpayer dollars on anything. You know, the first reaction, in fact the only reaction, tends to be to spend.” the Pennsylvania Republican said.