Only on 10: Reed, Whitehouse on Washington gridlock

U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse

Rhode Island's two United States senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, sat down for a wide-ranging discussion of the atmosphere in Washington, the future of gun control, and whether the state's investments in mass transit and wind energy will pay off.

First off, they say the partisan gridlock in the Capitol is as bad as it's ever been.

"Speaker Boehner insists he will only pass measures that have a Republican majority not measures that have a majority of the House of Representatives," Reed said.

Reed said the Senate has been able to pass some legislation that is stalled.

"We do have bipartisan measures that languish over there," Reed said.

The scandals that are currently getting attention: the revision of talking points regarding the Benghazi, Libya, embassy attack; the Internal Revenue Service focus on tea party groups; and the Justice Department's seizure of phone records from Associated Press reporters.

Whitehouse said they serve to unite a split Republican Party.

"They bring the party together. The party is actually very divided right now. As difficult as the divide is between Democrat and Republican right now, being in the Republican caucus is way worse. It is very toxic and hot in the caucus," Whitehouse said.

Despite that internal pressure, Whitehouse said Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee are working hard to pass an immigration reform bill.

"The folks like Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Jeff Blake, who were in the group that negotiated, they are sticking. They are being articulate. They are making sense. They are being very, very effective in the committee. And the result is the Republican attacks on the bill are actually breaking against their own members. The bill, at this stage, has gone forward without anything resembling a killer amendment," Whitehouse said.

Nothing like that success befell the gun control legislation that both senators supported. They blame the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association for killing background checks and high capacity magazine bans. But they vow the effort is not over and will be revived.

Reed and Whitehouse now make up the most senior delegation of New England senators. They point to their success in acquiring the TIGER grant that brought cranes and pier improvements to Quonset and Providence ports, appropriations for repairs on Interstate 95, money for the extension of T.F. Green Airport's runway, and extensions of commuter rail.

Altogether, Reed said the infrastructure investment poises Rhode Island to grow its economy.

"If we can have not only a port facility, but commuter rail and long range aircraft -- that gives Rhode Island a much better position to be competitive in a global market," Reed said. "Anyplace you have good commuter rail, you'll get development around those stations and then further out. If you look at any of those metro areas -- New York, Philadelphia -- one of the backbones is good service, good commuter rail service."

The senators said they believe offshore wind power will be a benefit both environmentally and economically. Their hope is that regardless of who wins the contracts to install wind turbines in the waters off Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Quonset Point is the most economic place to assemble and ship the turbines.