Sen. Kelly Ayotte has plenty of goals for the two years remaining in her freshman term now that the U.S. Senate will be shifting to Republican control, but they fall under one broad category.
“What I’d like to do is get things done,” the Granite State Republican told the New Hampshire Journal in an interview Friday afternoon. “The way Harry Reid has run the Senate – he has just shut down the Senate.”
With the midterm election now history, Ayotte also made it unofficially official that she intends to seek a second term.
“I thought everyone knew it,” she said. “I haven’t made an official announcement, but my plans are to run for reelection. There is so much more work to be done.
“As I look at this election, with new leadership, we will have an opportunity to get the Senate functioning and on regular order, where we vote on things and get things done for the country.”
Ayotte chose not to analyze the results of the election in New Hampshire. She would not speculate why Republicans did so well down the ballot, winning control of the state House and Executive Council and picking up a U.S. House seat, yet losing the two big statewide races.
“I really don’t’ know,” she said. “The voters certainly did vote for a mixed ticket, and it shows me they want a balance of power there, kind of like what we have nationally.”
She credited Scott Brown with having “worked hard, and he ran a good race,” but said, “I think it is always tough to run against an incumbent. The people of New Hampshire voiced their opinion and I respect that.”
She stressed that despite the tough tone of the Senate campaign, she has worked well with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, as have their two staffs, and she expects cooperation to continue on New Hampshire-focused issues.
“Even this afternoon we were working on something together, on the veterans issue,” she said. “I’m sure that (relationship) will continue as it has previously.”
Hopes to remain on key committees
Ayotte said she intends to ask to return to the four committees on which she services – Armed Services, Budget, Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and Aging.
She said she expects to chair two subcommittees, including the Armed Services subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, which is now chaired, ironically, by Shaheen.
Ayotte is now the ranking member of the Readiness subcommittee, and she said if Shaheen remains on the subcommittee, it is possible she and Shaheen “will switch.” The subcommittee has jurisdiction over military readiness, military construction and, the shipyard BRAC process, and so, she said, is an important subcommittee for New Hampshire.
She also is ranking member – and will likely become chair — of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, which has jurisdiction over civil aviation and oversight responsibility for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Ayotte said she is looking forward to having Arizona Sen. John McCain as chair of the Armed Services Committee because, she said, “He will be focused on national security issues and the challenges faced around the world. But he is also very interested in the oversight of the Pentagon and how we spend our money there.”
Ayotte said she expects Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to be unopposed for the post of Majority Leader, but said she would support him if opposition emerges.
“I’m not an elected member of leadership, but he has invited me to sit in at the leadership table, and I do appreciate that,” she said.
Keystone vote certain
Ayotte is looking forward to the Senate voting on several key pieces of legislation.
“You are going to see a vote on the Keystone Pipeline for sure,” Ayotte said. “Pieces of the health care law that there seem to be bipartisan agreement on may also be voted on, including the ‘Hire More Heroes Act,’ which helps veterans in terms of how you calculate employees; and restoring the 40 hour work week under Obama care. Also the Medical Device Tax is one area where it is just a matter of sitting down and figuring out how to address that.”
The Hire More Heroes Act would allow employers to exclude veterans receiving health insurance from the federal government from their list of employees under the Affordable Care act, allowing them to keep their list shorter and in some cases less than the 50 full-time employee threshold for coverage under the ACA. Supporters view it as an incentive for businesses to hire more veterans.
The House has also passed legislation that would define a full-time employee under Obamacare as someone who works 40 hours a week, rather than the current definition of 30 hours. The Senate has not taken it up.
“There are also a number of issues on the regulatory front where the House has passed legislation to make it easier for some businesses,” Ayotte said. “New Hampshire businesses say there are a number of regulations that come from these executive branch agencies that make it harder for them.
“I also think that we will have to look at transportation infrastructure,” said Ayotte. She said she is sponsoring legislation that “would allow some money to come from overseas, and take in that revenue and allowing it to be used for infrastructure.”
And, according to Ayotte’s office, the Partnership to Build America Act would attract private capital into the United States that is currently parked overseas to set up a $50 billion national infrastructure bank.
“Without using taxpayer dollars, the American Infrastructure Fund would be capitalized by allowing companies to buy $50 billion worth of infrastructure bonds,” Ayotte’s office said. “For every dollar invested, companies could repatriate a certain amount of overseas earnings. The fund could leverage an estimated $750 billion in loan guarantees and financing authority for transportation, energy, communications, water, and education infrastructure projects.”
Wants more details on troops announcement
Earlier today, President Obama announced he will send an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq in an advisory role in the battle against Islamic terrorist groups ISIS and ISIL.
Ayotte said she wanted to hear more details and will soon be briefed on it.
“”I’d like to know what role they are going to play and what the strategy is on the overall use of force,” she said. She said it is possible that the additional forces will help provide better targets for the airstrikes, which so far, she said, have not been as effective as previously hoped.
Obama, at a news conference on Thursday, reiterated his willingness to use executive authority to put immigration reform into effect.
Ayotte, who supported the comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate, said she “shares the concern that he should not act unilaterally. I support immigration reform but you have to get Congress working together on legislation. His announcement of unilateral action is not a way to solve this in the long term.”
She also said that Obama, in his news conference, was unclear to what degree, overall, he intends to work with the GOP-controlled Congress.
“I hope he realizes that people are tired of dysfunction and want to take a different course,” Ayotte said. “It’s not clear that he has taken the message yet. If he is willing to work with people like me and others to address the economy and our fiscal house, I’m more than willing to work with him.”