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Maryland members of Congress unveil bill to fund Baltimore bridge reconstruction

Baltimore bridge collapse relief bill released
Relief bill released to fund reconstruction of Baltimore bridge 05:31

Washington — A group of members of Congress from Maryland unveiled legislation on Thursday that would pay for the reconstruction and repair of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed last month when a container ship struck one of the bridge's main supports. 

The two-page bill, dubbed the Baltimore BRIDGE Relief Act, would have the federal government cover 100% of the cost of replacing the bridge. Six construction workers died when the span plunged into the Patapsco River in the early morning hours of March 26.

Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Rep. Kweisi Mfume and other members of the state's congressional delegation, introduced the bill on Thursday.

"The federal government is an essential partner in this gargantuan task of reopening the Port of Baltimore shipping channel and replacing the bridge with one built for modern-day commerce and travel needs," Cardin said in a statement. 

Cardin told CBS News the bill "makes it very clear" that the federal government will cover 100% of the cost for replacement of the bridge. He noted that the federal government is normally tasked with covering 90%, "but in catastrophic events we've changed it in the past for 100%."

Salvage crews continue to remove wreckage from the cargo ship Dali after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the Patapsco River on April 10, 2024 in Baltimore.
Salvage crews continue to remove wreckage from the cargo ship Dali after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the Patapsco River on April 10, 2024 in Baltimore. Kent Nishimura / Getty Images

President Biden said in the aftermath that the federal government should pay for the entire cost of its reconstruction, and that he expected Congress to support the effort. In the weeks since, the federal government released $60 million in emergency relief funding, and the president last week announced additional federal financial support to aid the city's economy. 

It remains unclear how much the recovery and rebuilding effort will cost. Some lawmakers have expressed concern over approving additional federal funds for the project up front, rather than holding third parties accountable for the damage. But the administration has stressed the importance of moving quickly on the matter, while working to reimburse taxpayers for recovery costs down the road.

Cardin said he's spoken to colleagues on both sides of the aisle about supporting the effort. 

"This is a national issue. I believe we have strong bipartisan support for the traditional 100% reimbursements," Cardin said. "In regards to replenishing funds, we've been able to do that on a bipartisan basis because every community in the nation is impacted by these funds that are in the Department of Transportation to deal with emergency situations."

Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican, said at a news conference this week that "tragedy knows no partisanship" and committed to working to shepherd the legislation through both chambers of Congress.

"This wasn't a Republican tragedy, it wasn't a Democrat tragedy and the solution won't be a partisan solution — it'll be a bipartisan solution," Harris said. 

The sentiment has been shared by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, who said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday that "this is not just a tragedy that has regional implications, but a tragedy that has national implications." He said "the ability for us to have a collective and a bipartisan response to its rebuild is imperative."

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