NH's new senator stops by biodiesel refinery on Nashua visit

NASHUA – Three weeks on the job now, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said she recognizes both the excitement of a new presidential administration and the apprehension of an economic crisis.

The freshman Democrat on Monday stressed the importance of passing an economic recovery package that she said will create jobs and forward alternative energy solutions – echoing the call of President Barack Obama.

Shaheen attended Obama’s inauguration and found it amazing “to see 2 million people excited about change,” she said.

But “it’s also daunting as we think about the many problems facing the country,” she added.

Shaheen spoke after touring Batchelder Biodiesel Refinery, her first official visit to Nashua after being sworn in as senator Jan. 6.

Afterward, she was flying back to Washington, where the Senate reconvened Monday afternoon after a weekend break.

As the White House has proposed, Shaheen said a recovery bill should include initiatives that couple energy reform and job creation, including the weatherization of 2.5 million homes.

Expanding broadband Internet access will also boost the economy, Shaheen said. In New Hampshire, that would mean pushing broadband to the western and northern parts of the state, she said. “You can’t attract a lot of businesses and can’t hope they’ll be efficient without high-speed Internet access,” she said.

Another goal of a stimulus package is to push money into the economy, Shaheen said. Tax cuts would help get money flowing, she said.

Asked if she would keep a watchful eye to block pork barrel projects from the recovery bill, Shaheen said Obama has made it clear he won’t sign a bill that includes earmarks.

“We want to put money into existing programs that can get right at problems so we don’t need new programs to distribute these funds,” she said.

Shaheen defeated Republican incumbent John Sununu in a rematch of their 2002 election fight.

The first bill she submitted in the Senate is the Health Equity Act of 2009. The bill would require Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that every state has a full-service veterans’ hospital.

The measure is aimed at New Hampshire, the only state that doesn’t offer a full-service veterans hospital or access to equivalent care, Shaheen said.

New Hampshire’s senior senator, Republican Judd Gregg, co-sponsored the legislation, and a similar proposal was introduced in the House by Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

Shaheen said she met Monday with Gregg, Hodes, Shea-Porter and Gov. John Lynch to discuss the economic recovery bill and see how they can work together to benefit the state.