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January 25. 2013 9:29PM

Sen. Ayotte stresses bipartisanship in Concord visit


U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., chats with James Reidy of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green at a B.I.A. gathering in Concord on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)


U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., speaks at a B.I.A. gathering in Concord on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD - Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., recalled great bipartisan achievements of the past in suggesting there is hope for long-term budget and debt solutions for the nation, despite years of gridlock in Washington.

"There are models in history that show we can accomplish a lot with divided government," she said.

"Those are the models we need to get back to in Washington," she said at a briefing for business executives on Friday at the Grappone Conference Center hosted by the state Business and Industry Association.

Ayotte said she was disappointed by the inability of Congress to achieve a long-term fiscal deal. "We continue to kick the can down the road," she said. "And I don't think that's the right way to do it.

She warned that any uptick in interest rates as the economy improves will constrain policy options, as payments on the national debt skyrocket. "Whatever view you have of government, the bigger those payments get, the fewer choices we have," she said.

Ayotte has consistently put reducing the national debt and crafting a federal budget at the top of her priorities, and reiterated those concerns on Friday. She said Congress must stop authorizing government spending via short-term continuing resolutions, and pass a budget.

She supports legislation that would put Congressional pay in escrow until a budget is approved, and predicted the House and Senate would both pass budget resolutions that would ultimately be reconciled. The last time the Senate passed a budget was in 2009.

Ayotte called for greater urgency surrounding reform of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and said she is open to a variety of options, including raising the retirement age for some programs and means testing for others.

"There's only one option we can't take," she said, "and that's doing nothing."

She told the group she would continue her efforts to prevent legislation that would require online business operators in the state to collect sales taxes on out-of-state transactions, saying, "I don't want our businesses to become tax collectors for the rest of the nation."

The state's junior senator sounded a consistently bipartisan tone throughout her brief comments. "It took both parties to get us $16 trillion in debt," she said, "and it's going to take both parties to get us out."



dsolomon@unionleader.com



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