MANCHESTER — While the partisan battles and the government shutdown drew most of the attention on Capitol Hill, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Monday bipartisan work on many key issues proceeded during the past year.
Featured at a luncheon hosted by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, the Democratic senior senator said the shutdown was hurtful to millions of Americans and was unnecessary.
“A lot of people were furloughed, it cost our economy about $24 billion, it increased our borrowing costs and produced a weak jobs report,” Shaheen said.
“It was not really necessary. It was one of those manufactured crises that never should have happened.”
She said she worked with New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte as part of a bipartisan group of eight senators “to pressure our leaderships to come to an agreement to get the government opened again. We do need to stop these preventable crises.”
Shaheen said she has called for the federal budget to be formulated on a two-year, or biennial basis, as it is in New Hampshire and 19 other states.“Since Ronald Reagan was President, we’ve only completed a federal budget on time twice,” she said.
She said she is co-sponsoring a biennial budget plan with Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who, she said will join her in a discussion about it at the University of New Hampshire School of Law next Monday.
Shaheen said that in the past year, construction on the Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth has been completed, and the federal prison in Berlin has 264 employees and 600 inmates.
Ground has been broken for a new New Hampshire Job Corps facility in Manchester, which, she said, “I started working on during my first year as governor,” in 1997. She said the facility is expected to be completed in early 2015.
Shaheen praised passage in the Senate of the Violence Against Women Act and the passage of a relief bill for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
She said a new student loan bill “does not provide as much savings as I would like since we are the state with the highest student debt in the country, but hopefully, we can revisit this.”
She called for more funding for the food stamp, or SNAP, program, saying the Senate bill cut $4 billion, but the Republican-led House bill cut $40 billion.
Shaheen said, “One in nine people in New Hampshire don’t get enough to eat, and in Manchester, one in four children don’t get enough to eat, a higher percentage than New York City.”
She said she joined with Republican Sen. John McCain to reauthorize the Iraq Special Immigrant Visa Program, which, she said, is a critical program that grants Iraqi civilians who served alongside U.S. troops during the war a chance to apply for a U.S. visa.
She called for more funding for “workforce development and education,” especially in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as for infrastructure.
She also said she introduced energy efficiency legislation with Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, which, she said, would have supported the creation of 136,000 jobs, but the bill was stalled by a small group of senators.Shaheen called for a change in the filibuster rules to prevent a handful of senators or even one senator to block votes on important issues.