WEARE — While the state of the economy was high on Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s agenda at a town hall meeting at the Weare Middle School Wednesday, the audience had other things on its mind.
Ayotte led the open forum, attended by about 25 people, with a presentation about the U.S. economy and her efforts to curb spending and make the government more efficient.
Her view of the current fiscal situation was simple.
“If you’re spending more than you take in, that’s a big problem because you can’t pay your bills,” she said.
Because the U.S. spends more than it takes in, she said, the country is borrowing $2 billion a day from nations like China.
In Washington, Ayotte said she’s running into brick walls in her efforts to slow government spending, which she said undermines economic growth.
She said she has even recommended cuts to certain defense programs, like one the military identified because it was no longer necessary.
Calling the program the “missile to nowhere,” that was pushed through Congress year after year even though the military had no use for it, Ayotte said she tried to pass legislation to have the program removed from the budget.
“I couldn’t even get it to a vote,” said Ayotte, who is pushing to make Congress and the President pay closer attention to the recommendations of the Government Accounting Office, which identifies wasteful spending and issues regular reports.
“We have these people doing all this work to make sure the government operates more efficiently, but we’re not doing anything with those reports,” she said.
At the same time, important military-related programs have taken a hit, she said, including cost of living adjustments for retired veterans.
Ayotte said the budget agreement approved by Congress in December placed the burden of government spending on the backs of those who served in the military but cut their COLAs.
“It’s manifestly unfair,” she said, but she said her efforts to eliminate tax credits used primarily by illegal immigrants in order to pay for the retirees’ COLAs fell on deaf ears.
Audience members who braved the cold to meet the senator Wednesday had other issues on their minds. Frank and Lucille Richardson said they are increasingly concerned about the power they believe President Obama has in Washington and his disregard for the Constitution.
“I don’t know what (Ayotte) can do as far as Obama exceeding his authority,” said Frank Richardson, “but somebody’s got to take him to task.”
“We need more Republicans standing up for our Constitutional rights and for smaller government,” said Lucille Richardson. “It’s time for us to say we’re not compromising anymore.”
Attendees also asked about the Benghazi investigation, and Ayotte said she is continuing to pay close attention as more information becomes available.
Based on a Senate Intelligence Committee Report issued last week, she said it’s clear that al Qaeda was involved and that there were “gross deficiencies in security” at the embassy in Benghazi, where three Americans were killed.
What bothers Sen. Ayotte most, she said, is that no one has been held accountable for errors and oversights.
“People ask me why I’ve gotten so drawn into the Benghazi issue,” she said, “but I was a prosecutor and when that story first came out, I knew something wasn’t right.”