Gregg: Wooing Women

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Fox News favorite, is broadening her repertoire. The first-term New Hampshire Republican has played a prominent role, on television, raising objections to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s potential nomination to become secretary of state.

A Washington Post story last week called her “an influential new voice” in the GOP, and the paper’s conservative-leaning blogger, Jennifer Rubin, separately wrote that Ayotte “spoke in measured tones, with the attention to detail that those immersed in national security policy and high-stakes fiscal negotiations are expected to have,” when discussing her concerns about Rice.

Well, that’s one opinion. Ayotte plays well on television, but has she said anything terribly profound yet? In April, she tried to shore up Mitt Romney’s eroding support among women voters by saying women were most concerned about the economy and adding, “He’s got these great daughter-in-laws and a real strong family ... And I think that will appeal to women voters.”

In fact, it didn’t.

Ayotte has repeatedly, but not always, voted with the hard-right bloc in the Senate, though she did break ranks Tuesday, along with a handful of other Republicans, to support a U.N. treaty on the rights of the disabled.

A longtime critic, Democratic National Committeeman Peter Burling, said Ayotte “wants a national presence in the Republican hierarchy” but is ignoring the will of New Hampshire voters, who want progress on budget talks and support President Obama and his call for higher taxes on the wealthy.

“She is being managed by people who want to fill a perceived gap in the Republican persona, and that is competent women,” said Burling. The Cornish Democrat also noted that Ayotte could, potentially, face a challenge from incoming Gov. Maggie Hassan in 2016. The newly elected governor by then would have two terms under her belt.

More locally, Nashua Republican Jennifer Horn has picked up the support of Grafton County Republican Chairman Bruce Perlo and anti-tax activist Tom Thomson, along with former Sullivan County GOP Chairman Steve Cunningham, in her bid to become the new state GOP chairwoman. She’s running against Tea Party Republican Andrew Hemingway of Bristol. Given the number of Democratic women in power in Concord, Republicans probably need Horn.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire’s other senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, keeps plugging away on legislation as she faces re-election in 2014. Shaheen this week helped steer through the Senate an amendment that would allow the Pentagon to cover the cost of abortions for servicewomen who are victims of rape or incest.

New Title

State Sen. Bob Odell, R-Lempster, yesterday was named Senate president pro tempore, a mostly honorary title, but will also remain as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and will continue to play a key role in budget talks in Concord. Odell said he is concerned by the anemic growth rate in the state and nation, and also said negotiators in Washington dealing with the so-called fiscal cliff need to be “very, very cautious about revenue streams that go to the states.” More than $2 billion a year, about 40 percent of the Granite State’s revenue, comes from federal sources, he noted.

“If we interrupt that stream, we would be having to cut off some of these services that are embedded into the fabric of state government,” the Newport-area Republican warned.

What to Cut?

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issued a stern critique of a Republican congressional proposal he said would slash benefits for disabled veterans. Sanders said the measure would readjust cost-of-living benefits for Social Security recipients and disabled veterans, and wind up costing permanently disabled young veterans as much as $1,300 a year by the time they are 45. “This is not what the American people want and it is not what must happen,” Sanders said in a speech at the National Press Club.

But surely cuts are coming to the states. Here’s one to ponder: does Vermont, in this age of electronic court records and interstate travel, really need three U.S. District Courts, in Brattleboro, Rutland and Burlington? New Hampshire has just one federal district court, in Concord, plus a federal bankruptcy court in Manchester.

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Asked by email whether Leahy believes the state should continue to have three courts, given the need for austerity, spokesman David Carle responded: “Senator Leahy believes all Vermonters should have access to the federal justice system, regardless of where they live. Vermont’s federal court houses are busy and efficiently run, and they make good use of the latest technologies. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts that oversees the federal court system regularly reviews space needs in accordance with narrowing budgets. The General Services Administration also is evaluating and reducing federal space nationwide as part of a general administration initiative to minimize costs.”