Alex Witt   |  May 25, 2013

Could Wash. bridge collapse lead to more infrastructure funding?

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, speaks with MSNBC’s Alex Witt about America’s outdated and dangerous infrastructure. He remarks how 11% of all bridges in America are structurally deficient and the importance of funding. He talks about cutting spending while maintaining infrastructure and looking towards the future. Rep. Cummings also gives his opinion on Lois Lerner and the IRS investigation.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> as americans plan to travel, millions are going to be driving over the 66,000 bridges the government has deemed structurally deficient. so what is the government doing about our nation's outdated infrastructure. joining us now is elijah cummings . as always, a pleasure. thank you for joining us on this holiday weekend.

>> well, this bridge, this one that we're talking about with the accident rated functionally obsolete and it's still on the main route from seattle to vancouver on i-5. carrying about 75,000 vehicles a day. how does that happen?

>> well, in america, sadly, about 11% of all of our bridges are structurally deficient. and that's because we are not putting what many organizations say needs to be around $8 billion a year in repairing these bridges. the president has been very strong on this. this is something that i've been pushing for a long time. that we have to take care of our infrastructure it. keep in mind, alex , that over 210 million trips are structurally deficient bridges. we're better than that. when you start talking about austerity, there's a price for austerity. and that's not just bridges. but in my state of maryland hopefully this will be another alarm of the congress to do something. back in 2009 you'll recall a bridge collapse and we lost 13 citizens. we can do better.

>> the fact that you are focused on this and the president back in march said we've got to try to deal with all of this, deal with the red tape , will that make a difference?

>> i hope so, alex . but i can tell you the climate in washington today is one that seems to go against spending on anything. i've said it many time, we've got to cut our spending. and when we maintain our infrastructure, that also creates jobs. this bridge in washington it's going to tie up traffic while they try to repair it and try to find the funds to repair it. we're going to spend the money we need jobs.

>> we all travel over these bridges. and we'll stay on top of this topic but we'll also stay on the irs . lois lerner refusing to answer questions and now she's on administrative leave .

>> i believe she needed to leave sooner ran than later and i was glad to see her put on leave. it's an organization that affects every single person in our country. people fear the irs as it is. if they feel that they are not being treated fairly, that only creates more problems. and so i think we're et going to the root of it. i think we are now looking at how this is started. there's no evidence that i've seen so far that this got beyond the irs , these problems. and so now i think the president was absolutely right by relieving mr. miller, the interim irs commissioner of his duties and now we see this young lady leaving. and i think this is important to restoration. but i've got to tell you, i had a long conversation the other day with danny, the knew irs commissioner appointed by the president and i am excited about what he's about to do. he's doing exactly what the president to do and he's looking at the irs from top to bottom and he's about to come to the i.g. to figure out all of the problems that the i.g. knows of. then they are going to hold folks accountable and make sure the irs , the confidence of the american people is restored in the irs . that's what we've got to do.

>> may i ask you, being on the oversight committee, you were in that room. how did it feel for you to hear lois lerner just make a statement and then take off?

>> well, i tell you, i probably have a different perspective as a lawyer. i've seen people do that. i've advised clients at other times. so it did not surprise me. keep in mind, i read the statement that she did make, alex . and it was just a general statement saying i didn't do anything wrong. and so i don't think that's unusual. according to my research and my experts, she didn't waive her right to assert her rights under the fifth amendment and i think she -- again, she was operating under the advice of counsel. counsel was right there with her. he knew she was going to make this statement and he felt confident that she could make the statement without waiving her rights. we're trying to find a way to work something out where she can come before the committee, give her testimony, because, again, we are in search of the truth so that we can restore trust.