The Republican-led House of Representatives delivered a knockout punch to a redoubled effort to make New Hampshire the 28th state to permit employees to refuse to pay union dues or fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

After an hour-long debate, the House on Thursday voted 197-178 to indefinitely postpone the Right-to-Work bill (SB 61), which means the general topic cannot be addressed again until 2023.

Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, and his leadership team had made the bill a top priority, and there were renewed hopes it would pass once the GOP regained control of the lower chamber.

But while the roll-call results were not available, it was clear at least 20 Republican members likely bucked their own leaders and opposed the measure.

“What right-to-work would really do is give some workers a free ride. Anti-union workers could enjoy all the benefits without having to pay a cost for negotiating these benefits,” said Rep. Donald Bouchard, D-Manchester.

Rep. Leonard Turcotte, R-Barrington, said that as an American Airlines pilot, he paid union dues for more than 30 years, but only because he had the option of not paying if the union wasn’t responsive.

“Right-to-Work is not about union busting,” Turcotte said. “To me, the right to work is really about two things — value received and freedom of choice.”

Last month, the state Senate voted 13-11 to endorse the measure, as it has several times over the past decade.

The House of Representatives approved right-to-work legislation in 2011 and 2015. Then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed the 2011 bill, and in 2015 the measure died in the Senate.

The Legislature has failed to pass it in 39 attempts over four decades.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, vowed to keep fighting.

“With a combination of a tightly divided House and union boss pressure tactics intimidating a handful of legislators, the bill failed narrowly in the House,” Mix said in a statement.

“This is a setback for New Hampshire and its citizens, but I remain confident that Granite Staters will ultimately enjoy the freedom and economic prosperity that come from a Right-to-Work law.”

When Gov. Chris Sununu was first elected governor in 2016, he made Right-to-Work one of his first signature initiatives, but it failed in the House.

While Sununu remains philosophically in support of the cause, he hasn’t mounted a similarly aggressive campaign since.