House Republicans Make Demands In Exchange For Bridge Funding

In the aftermath of a container ship collision in Baltimore last month, President Joe Biden promised that the federal government would foot the bill for rebuilding the toppled Francis Scott Key Bridge.

A number of Republican lawmakers, however, have expressed a reluctance to devote potentially billions of taxpayer dollars to the project — unless they are able to get something in return, that is.

In a statement on the matter, the right-leaning House Freedom Caucus asserted: “Before Congress considers any emergency supplemental funding for the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, it’s important that (1) we first seek maximum liability from the foreign shipping companies upfront and (2) the Port of Baltimore draws upon already available funds.”

The caucus later added to those demands, specifically calling on House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to advocate for a rescission of bans on natural gas exports in exchange for funding to rebuild the bridge.

“The Biden administration’s pause on approvals of liquified natural gas export terminals, which, like the Baltimore harbor closure, has severe implications for foreign trade, must be lifted before Congress considers appropriating any funding for the bridge reconstruction,” the House Republicans wrote.

Furthermore, they pointed a finger at the Singapore-based company that owns the ship involved in the collisions, insisting that it must face “maximum liability” for its role in the incident.

Finally, the House Freedom Caucus stipulated that any funding approved for the project must be “limited to physical structure repairs with a federal nexus” and “must not become a pork-filled bill loaded with unrelated projects.”

For its part, the Biden administration has not shown any interest in considering limitations.

“I fully intend, as the governor knows, to have the federal government cover the cost of building this entire bridge — all of it,” the president said.

A White House official echoed Biden’s sentiment, stating: “The president is continuing to lead a whole-of-government approach to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. As the president said within hours of the collapse, this administration will be with the people of Baltimore every step of the way.”

Early estimates indicate the cost of replacing the 1.6-mile bridge could top $2 billion.