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Maggie Hassan, left, and Jeanne Shaheen are pictured in this October 2016 file photo. On Friday they were greeted with a standing ovation at the opening of a town hall meeting at NHTI. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent file photo)

Concord 'town hall' serves as anti-Trump rally


CONCORD — While Republican members of Congress have seen huge crowds turn ugly at town hall meetings across the country, New Hampshire’s two Democratic senators hosted what could only be described as an anti-Trump pep rally Friday morning.

More than 300 supporters turned out to pack Sweeney Auditorium on the campus of the New Hampshire Technical Institute where they urged senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan to keep pushing back on the White House’s policies and political appointments.

The friendly crowd greeted the pair with a standing ovation at the opening of the 90-minute session and delivered a series of softball questions urging the minority party senators to keep up the fight.

Jenny Foster of Hopkinton said her 9-year-old daughter is sleep deprived and distraught over Trump’s proposals for an immigrant travel ban.

“She is crying to think families are being taken apart,” Foster declared.

Hassan, a former governor, said she did not consider when first joining the Senate last month that she would be engaged in such vigorous opposition to a new President.

“I never thought I would begin my tenure as senator having to stand up to a President whose conflict of interest and whose involvement with Russia would cause so many questions,” Hassan said.

And she took a shot at what she considers to be Trump’s bullying behavior.

“It is very disturbing to have a chief executive who seems to shoot from the hip or shoot from the lip,” Hassan said.

“When Donald Trump questions the validity of the outcome of the New Hampshire election … no one who lost on Election Day asked for a recount, right? That becomes fodder for state-level Republicans to try to suppress voter rights in the state.”

Shaheen said while Trump is pushing for repeal of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, she believes Republican leaders on Capitol Hill now have cold feet about the idea. Shaheen said that’s because doing away with the federal law would strip coverage from millions of Americans and could lead to higher costs for health insurance.

“They have figured out they can’t do it and provide all of the promises they have offered,” Shaheen said. “I believe the Republican leadership is walking back on their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

And Shaheen repeated her support for an independent commission to investigate the extent to which the Russian government interfered in U.S. elections.

“The American people need to know what happened here, whether there was any wrongdoing and then we need to take appropriate action,” Shaheen said.

Hassan revealed that next week she will be meeting with Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both senators said it would not be right for Democrats to oppose a public hearing for Gorsuch after being upset last year when Senate GOP leaders refused to give one to Obama’s court pick, Merrick Garland.

“I am not going out to say it’s wrong for them and it’s right for us to do that. I think that is a double standard and not the right way to go,” Shaheen said.

Hassan and Shaheen said they would not vote for someone who “does not support” reproductive rights for women or civil rights for the lesbian, gay and transgender communities.

When another citizen asked about bipartisanship, Hassan said she wants to work with GOP senators but not to undo good legislation.

“There is a difference between constructive compromise and undermining the progress that we have made,” Hassan added.

Shaheen said the White House trial balloon about a 20 percent tariff on imported goods to help pay for cutting the corporate income tax rate is a non-starter.

“It’s a border adjustment tax, a BAT, that’s a good name for it, this would be a tax on all imports coming into this country,” Shaheen added.

“I think that is a crazy idea for a number of reasons. It would increase costs for goods, it would start a trade war and I think it’s dead on arrival.”

klandrigan@unionleader.com


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