Primary Source: Sununu Meets With Pence During D.C. Trip

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu enjoyed some facetime with prominent Trump administration officials this week during a trip to Washington.

The first-term Republican was in the capital for meetings of Jobs for America’s Graduates, a bipartisan, nonprofit group that serves at-risk young people, helping them get job-ready skills. Sununu sits on the group’s board of directors.

He also traveled to the White House on Wednesday, meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, Jared Kushner and Kellyanne Conway. The day before, he’d met with top Medicaid officials and with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.

In a teleconference with New Hampshire reporters Wednesday afternoon, Sununu said he and Pence had discussed Medicaid and the opioid crisis, talking about giving New Hampshire more flexibility in how it deals with Medicaid expansion and the drug crisis. “This is an administration that is always willing to pick up the phone when we need it, help us out when we need it,” Sununu said.

He also met briefly with Conway, who is now taking the lead on the opioid crisis. “She’s been in New Hampshire. She understands the importance of this issue,” Sununu said.

In his sit-down with Kushner, they discussed regulatory reform and how New Hampshire has responded to opiate-related deaths.

Sununu reiterated his support for the massive tax-reform passage now in the Senate, and sidestepped a question about whether it would raise the national deficit by suggesting that costs from abolishing the individual mandate to buy health insurance shouldn’t be factored into the debate calculation.

“Of course anytime the debt potentially might go up, that is concerning, but simplifying the tax code and providing relief for low- and middle-income families in this country is a positive that I’m going to champion every time,” Sununu said.

He also said, “At the end of the day, this will be a net positive for a majority of low- and middle-income families in this country,” a statement officials with the New Hampshire Democratic Party took exception too.

They put out a news release Wednesday evening noting that the Joint Committee on Taxation has forecast that most households earning less than $75,000 would see their taxes increase by 2027 under the bill.

The website FiveThirtyEight on Wednesday noted polling averages show the current GOP tax cut plan is “historically unpopular” compared with previous tax cuts dating back to 1981. Only 32 percent of Americans approve of the current plan, while 46 percent are opposed, FiveThirtyEight reported.

And Hanover Republican Jim Rubens, a former state senator who favors a balanced budget amendment, took to Twitter to argue that the federal debt is already projected to increase by $10 trillion over the next decade, and that the tax reform bill would “add at least $1 trillion, factoring in max growth from tax cuts.”

Fiscal conservatism is dead, Rubens suggested.

After Sununu’s meeting with Pence, the vice president tweeted out a picture of the two of them in the White House, saying, “Good seeing New Hampshire’s great Governor @GovChrisSununu at the @WhiteHouse today. Talked about @POTUS’ priorities of tax cuts, jobs & combating the scourge of opiate addiction in the Granite State.”

Did we mention that Sununu is up for re-election next year?

Congressional Coffers

Incumbency has many advantages, as third-quarter campaign finance reports filed in mid-October with the Federal Election Commission makes clear.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., raised $425,000 last quarter and now has $2 million cash on hand, far outpacing the Republicans who are just launching their bids.

State Rep. Steve Negron, R-Nashua, reported a $96,742 warchest, while Hopkinton Republican Stewart Levenson, a former VA physician, only announced his bid on Oct. 4 and had nothing to report.

Former House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, dropped out of the race earlier this month, but another Brookline Republican is looking at taking on Kuster.

That would be former WMUR-TV anchor and Dartmouth-Hitchcock spokesman Josh McElveen, who is mulling over a bid.

“I’m giving it thorough examination. This is nothing against Annie Kuster or trying to tear anyone down,” McElveen said on Wednesday. “If I did decide to run, this is more of an effort to build bridges to Washington, D.C.”

A New Hampshire native who served in the Marine Corps, McElveen, 46, left his job as vice president of communications and marketing for Dartmouth-Hitchcock earlier this fall after just seven months on the job.

Across the Connecticut River, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., has a $2 million campaign account.

And U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., up for re-election in 2018, reported almost $5.9 million cash on hand, even after spending almost $1.4 million so far in 2017.

John P. Gregg can be reached at 603-727-3217 or jgregg@vnews. com.