Rhode Island’s congressional representatives are frustrated by what they call a governmental gridlock threatening legislation that could spur economic recovery locally and throughout the country.
“Let’s knock it off, let’s get things done,” Sen. Jack Reed told a few hundred business leaders at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 congressional breakfast held on April 9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Providence-Warwick Airport. “Clearly, we aren’t at a point yet where we can decisively say we’ve turned a corner” with the economy.
Reed and fellow Democrats Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. David N. Cicilline and Rep. James R. Langevin spoke at the breakfast on issues facing Rhode Island’s business community, including what they’re focused on in terms of investing in the state’s economy via transportation and job development.
Reed was referencing the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 that, despite a 74-22 vote in favor in the Senate last month, failed to pass in the House before a March 31 deadline to spend from the trust fund that would have fed it.
A 90-day extension of current programs was granted and an end-of-June vote on the $109 billion bill looms.
The bill could give Rhode Island some $227 million a year, for its two-year tenure, which lawmakers say would go a long way toward refueling the construction-job market, creating approximately 9,000 jobs.
“It’s inexplicable that we haven’t passed [it],” said Reed. “[It’s a] significant market [and] we haven’t moved aggressively.”
The money, lawmakers have said, would be used to invest in highways, other roads and bridges, including replacing the I-95 Providence viaduct.
Whitehouse said he felt Congress missed the mark in failing to pass the bill.
“We’ve been legislating [highway bills] since [President] Eisenhower. [This] is the only vehicle we have to rebuild [Interstate] 95,” said Whitehouse. “Ultimately, this [was] an example of gridlock. It was an absolute failure of governance.”
Reed and Whitehouse have been similarly outspoken on their frustration.
Langevin and Cicilline more than echoed their sentiments at the breakfast, with former Providence Mayor Cicilline saying he felt a group had “hijacked” the Republican caucus. Langevin blamed an “ultra-conservative” group for preventing progress.