PASADENA, Texas (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden pitched proposed federal investments in infrastructure as a way to create jobs during a visit Monday to the busy Port of Houston.
"This is about community," Biden said, speaking to about 150 people on a concrete dock at one of the world's busiest ports. "This is not about the federal government plopping down all this money and doing everything. It's the smallest amount of money that multiples to a great amount of money."
The Obama administration has requested Congress earmark $50 billion for improvements in ports, bridges and highways, and Biden has been making the rounds of ports and freight transportation centers in recent weeks to push the proposal. President Barack Obama did the same earlier this month in New Orleans.
Their efforts, however, have failed to gain much traction in Congress.
"This matters a great deal," Biden said. "Investing in infrastructure is how you create jobs and profits.
"For the life of me, I don't understand how so many members of Congress have forgotten what built this country. This used to be a nonpartisan deal."
He cited infrastructure projects such as the transcontinental railroad and ports like Houston as examples.
The 25-mile-long Port of Houston, marking its 99th year, handles more than 200 million tons of cargo annually. It's ranked first in the country in export tonnage.
"I wish everyone in Texas and throughout country can stand here where I'm standing today and take a look at this incredible facility," Biden said, speaking from a podium placed inside a ring of boxcarlike containers and under a series of 150-foot-tall cranes that lift the containers to and from ships.
"It's not enough to keep up. We need to stay ahead.
"Investing in infrastructure is how you create jobs and profits. ... That's the secret of the journey of America."
Biden was headed Tuesday to tour the Panama Canal expansion project, which he said is likely to bring vessels carrying double or triple the amount of cargo they now transport to U.S. ports such as Houston.
"You're going to be seeing longer ships, wider ships," he said. "Port infrastructure is going to have to be ready.
"So folks, we've got to get back in the game. That's how you get companies the ability to hire people and pay middle-class wages."
He said that by 2035, more than five times as many containerized exports would be leaving Houston.
"Imagine how many jobs that means. Imagine how many manufacturers will choose to locate in the Houston area because they can get goods to market quicker, cheaper, faster.
"Those manufacturers won't stay here if we don't have those improvements. ... How else are we going to compete? You think the rest of the world is sitting down? The rest of the world is moving. We've got to move faster than the rest of the world."
"This is a tremendous opportunity, so let's no squander it."