CONCORD – State Republican leaders are slamming the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators and a congresswoman for moving to “skip the line” and get the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine ahead of New Hampshire seniors.
Republican State Chairman Stephen Stepanek said Sens. Maggie Hassan, 63, and Jeanne Shaheen, 73, had earlier said they would wait their turns for the vaccine.
“Throughout this pandemic Congress has stumbled, obstructed, and failed the American people. They held up relief for months in order to play their political games, and now they are being rewarded for their partisanship and inaction by getting vaccinated ahead of schedule,” Stepanek said in a statement Tuesday.
“COVID-19 vaccines are limited in supply due to their inability to lead in Congress and they had the audacity to put themselves first while leaving New Hampshire behind.”
Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley responded in a statement that the senators got the vaccine only after they were advised to by Capitol Hill physicians because they were huddled in a crowded space following the violent insurrection by rioters at the Capitol a week ago.
“Just days after Sununu’s lame attempted ‘Kumbaya’ statement” — a reference to Gov. Chris Sununu’s inaugural address stressing neighborliness — “his team crosses the line again in viciously attacking female members of Congress for getting vaccinated at advice of a doctor after being held in small room with GOP anti-maskers in the midst of a Trump-incited terror attack,” Buckley said.
COVID in the House
Two Democrats in the U.S. House — Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington — said they tested positive for the virus after being sequestered with some House Republicans who refused to wear masks and ridiculed those who asked them to put one on.
Rep. Annie Kuster, 64, said two weeks ago she got the vaccine on the advice of her doctor.
Rep. Chris Pappas, 40, said he will wait to receive his.
Last week, in his inaugural address, Gov. Sununu called for bipartisan healing in these turbulent times, though his speech included criticism of elected officials who get special treatment.
“We see individuals trying to cut in line to get a vaccine, or demand that their job is more important than others and therefore they need to be first. That is all a function of the cult-like status we give them,” Sununu said.
After hearing last month that congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders had already gotten their vaccines, Sununu was even more critical.
“Since when is doing nothing an essential function?” Sununu said on Dec. 20. “It’s ridiculous that Congress is cutting in line ahead of folks in long-term care. I’ll be the first in line to get the vaccine when it’s my turn.”
Paul Punturieri, a respiratory therapist and Moultonborough town moderator, said it’s unfair to target individual members of Congress because each has his or her own health conditions.
“I don’t agree with Congress jumping the line, but @nhgop singling out @AnnMcLaneKuster is wrong,” Punturieri posted on social media.
Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn, a newly elected Republican state representative from Windham, agreed with his party leadership.
“Elected officials should have to wait like everyone else. Members of Congress who skipped the line need to apologize to all Granite State senior citizens who are patiently waiting their turn.”
Sununu on Trump
On Monday, Sununu said for the first time that Donald Trump bore some responsibility for last week’s insurrection but that it was up to Congress to decide whether to impeach him for it.
“As elected officials, our words are held to a higher standard, and it is clear that President Trump’s rhetoric and actions contributed to the insurrection at the United States Capitol Building,” Sununu said.
“The domestic terrorists who attacked the United States Capitol must be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. President-elect Biden has said impeachment is a matter for Congress to weigh, and I agree.”