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Obama prods Congress on transportation

WASHINGTON -- Pressing for passage of the transportation piece of his stalled jobs bill, President Barack Obama suggested yesterday that lawmakers are out of touch and urged them to fall in line with the big majority of the public that he said supports him.

Obama said the nation's aging transportation network costs U.S. businesses and families about $130 billion a year. Failing to upgrade the network could cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs by the end of the decade, he said.

The Senate planned to vote today on whether to take up the measure -- $50 billion for road, bridge and other repairs and $10 billion to attract private money to help finance such projects.

Like his jobs proposals, this piece is expected to be unanimously opposed by Republicans and a few Democrats who object to any new spending and to the president's plan for a new tax on the wealthy to help pay for it.

Obama said the public is on his side and that lawmakers will have to answer to their constituents if they don't pass it.

"There's no good reason to oppose this bill. Not one," he said at the foot of the Key Bridge, which connects the District of Columbia and Arlington, Va.

The government has identified the bridge as in need of the type of crucial repair and maintenance that Obama says his bill would help finance.

"Members of Congress who do, who vote no, are going to have to explain why to their constituencies," Obama said. "The American people are with me with this."

He also tried to shame the Republican-controlled House by accusing its leaders of wasting time during a jobs crisis with debates over commemorative baseball coins and reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the country's motto. The House has refused to consider Obama's jobs bill.

"That's not putting people back to work," Obama said. "I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work."

A House Republican aide said not even 20 minutes were devoted to the baseball coins and U.S. motto.

Last night, the president was preparing to leave for the G-20 summit in Cannes, France. The United States has an important role to play in the economic crisis revolving around the danger of a default by Greece, but it is ultimately Europe's problem to solve, the White House said Wednesday.

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