By Michael Cleveland
Gridlock in the U.S. House of Representatives has stalled a transportation bill that would have brought $20 million and about 6,600 jobs to New Hampshire, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told the Milford Rotary Club on Wednesday.
Shaheen, speaking at the Rotary's weekly luncheon, reiterated remarks she made earlier in the day on Laura Knoy's show on New Hampshire Public Radio.
"I was very disappointed that we were not able to get a long-term bill passed," she said, adding after a short pause, "yet."
Shaheen found it particularly frustrating because the bill passed the U.S. Senate with wide bipartisan support, 74-22, but ended up stalled when the House refused to pass it.
"It got bogged down in the House over partisan differences," said Shaheen, a Democrat. "In the Senate, the chair and the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee are about as ideologically opposed as you can get."
She was referring to Democrat Barbara Boxer of California and Republican Jim Inhoff of Oklahoma. Shaheen called Boxer "about as far on the left as any member of the Senate," and referred to Inhoff as "about as far on the right as you can get in the Senate."
"Yet," Shaheen said, "the two of them were able to come together to support this legislation because it's critical to our country in terms of job creation and investing in our roads and bridges and mass transit system in a way that we need for the future."
She said about 2 million jobs would have been created nationwide had the House passed the bill and President Barack Obama signed it.
But she believes there is still hope. Although an attempt to get a two-year bill failed, proponents did get the House to agree to a 90-day extension of the current legislation.
"We will keep working on this," Shaheen said, reminding the Rotarians that some of the money would go toward upgrading Interstate 93. "Hopefully, we can iron out our differences in a way that can get a long-term bill passed."
She called the delay in the House a "reflection of some of the challenges that we have in Washington today -- bridging partisan differences and working together to get things done for our country."