Construction industry people listening to President Obama's State of the Union address and newly elected Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who gave the GOP's response heard both bring up infrastructure as an important issue.
But unsurprisingly, their focus differed.
Ernst's infrastructure remarks concentrated on the long-studied Keystone XL pipeline and the job-creating impact of enacting a bill to authorize the project's construction. (Video of remarks, via Senate Republican Conference.)
But in a message to Republicans who have been hammering him to approve the pipeline, Obama said, "Let's pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year and make this country stronger for decades to come." (Textof speech.)
Obama's sharpest construction-related sound bite was: "21st century businesses need a 21st century infrastructure." He cited "modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains" along with "the fastest internet."
Later in the speech, the President mentioned his recommended "pay-for" to cover the cost of that plan. It's the same source he discussed last year: "Let's close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad and reward those that invest in America"—and use the proceeds to rebuild infrastructure.
Engineering, construction and transportation groups, including theAmerican Society of Civil Engineers, Airports Council International-North America and American Association of Port Authorities, issued statements or posted Twitter comments pointing to Obama's support for infrastructure.
Congress will have an opportunity to act on infrastructure legislation this year including aviation authorization and fiscal 2016 appropriations.
But the big item—and probably what Obama was referring to—is a new highway-transit measure to succeed the current stopgap that expires on May 31.
Pete Ruane, American Road & Transportation Builders Association CEO,notedthat congressional leaders from both parties have called a new surface-transportation bill a top priority and Obama "made similar statements" in his speech.
But the often-blunt Ruane added, "Taken together, it leads us to wonder, 'What are you waiting for?'"
He said that Congress and Obama need to agree on "a long-term revenue stream" to finance that transportation bill. That's what all sides are waiting for.
In her remarks, Ernst caught the ENR audience's attention when she recalled that growing up in Iowa, "I worked construction with my dad."
Ernst brought up "the Keystone jobs bill,"—legislation to authorize the pipeline's construction, which the House has passed and the Senate is debating.
She said Obama "has been delaying this bipartisan infrastructure project for years" and added that the president "will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill or block good American jobs?"
Keystone may be the first test for whether the White House and the Republican majority in Congress can find common ground on infrastructure legislation.
But the biggest test will be the transportation bill.