GOP Congressman Says It's 'Outrageous' To Use Federal Funds To Fix Baltimore Bridge

Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) on Thursday criticized President Joe Biden for calling on Congress to pay for the cost of fixing the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore after it was struck by a ship and collapsed this week, leaving six people presumed dead and a major shipping port closed for the foreseeable future.

“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,” Meuser said in an interview with Fox Business on Thursday. “This is a crisis situation, but it needs a plan, not a knee-jerk spend reaction.”

The Pennsylvania congressman suggested instead pulling from funds Democrats have already passed boosting electric vehicles to help pay for the repair effort, which could cost upwards of several billions of dollars.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates didn’t seem to take kindly to Meuser’s comments, writing on X, formerly Twitter, that Biden “knows the federal government has a critical role to play when it comes to American infrastructure” and that “so does” Meuser.” He noted a press release featured on the congressman’s website that touts his efforts at securing federal funding to replace a bridge in his district.

“Without a functional bridge, members of the community would face considerable challenges in accessing essential services and navigating their daily lives. This investment will have a beneficial impact on all who call New Milford Borough home,” Meuser said in a statement accompanying the press release earlier this week.

It’s not clear yet exactly how much federal funding Maryland will require to fix the bridge. There are about $950 million in federal funds available for such purposes that can be released from an emergency fund within the Federal Highway Administration. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told reporters on Thursday that most of the cost of the project will be covered by emergency funds already available and that Congress will need to supplement the remainder. Additional money could be provided from the shipping company’s insurance.

Biden said Tuesday he intended for the federal government to pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, vowing to “spend all the federal resources they need as we respond to this emergency.”

But if Meuser’s comments are any indication of where Republicans will line up on this issue, Congress could be in for yet another partisan fight when it returns to Washington from its recess next month.

Republicans loudly protested the $1.2 trillion government funding bill Congress passed last week because of its effect on the deficit, and some on the far-right may demand partisan policy changes in exchange for agreeing to provide federal funding to fix the bridge ― another sign of how poisonous politics in D.C. have gotten lately.

A horrible bridge collapse was once a cause for both parties to come together to help their fellow Americans. In 2007, when the I-35W bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, killing 13 people, both chambers of Congress voted unanimously to send $250 million in emergency assistance to Minnesota to help with the cleanup and rebuild within just a few days of the catastrophe.

Van Hollen told reporters on Thursday he planned to call House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who has yet to comment on how Congress plans to address the disaster, to discuss the path for a funding bill.

The Maryland Democrat also slammed Meuser’s comments in a statement provided to HuffPost, noting the effects of the closure of the Port of Baltimore will be felt widely across the country.

“This is a national tragedy with national implications — including to our economy and our supply chains,” the senator said. “We should of course hold those responsible accountable. But Congress needs to come together on a bipartisan basis as it has in the past to provide any funds necessary as soon as they’re necessary. It’s shameful that anyone would play politics with this.”